Willkommen home to Randy Harrison

Pace Academy alum stars in national tour of 'Cabaret'

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Most teenage theater geeks in Atlanta aspire to eventually take center stage at the Fox Theatre. Pace Academy alumnus Randy Harrison preps for a warm homecoming doing just that as he brings the national tour of the musical Cabaret to town. Given the ominous political nature of the show, Harrison says he believes it’s more relevant than ever in this election year, as a reminder of the importance of participating in the process.

Those who remember Harrison donning green tights in the early ‘90s Pace production of Peter Pan will be thrilled to see him all grown up two decades later, with a decidedly different look wearing lingerie and leather as the Kit Kat Klub’s Master of Ceremonies. The role, as famously played by Joel Grey on Broadway and in the 1972 film version of the musical, emanated an ethereal, otherworldly vibe alongside Liza Minnelli’s wide-eyed take on Sally Bowles. But if you’re expecting to see Harrison in that mode, think again. The current incarnation owes more to the sexed-up model Alan Cumming set up in extremely popular London and Broadway revivals of the show in the ‘90s. A self-described introvert, Harrison says he enjoys the challenge of this flirty character who teases and challenges the audience.

“I think every introvert has the mirror opposite somewhere inside of them,” he says. “It’s kind of liberating.” On top of studying improv in his current hometown, New York, and occasionally performing in his underwear with The Skivvies, he cites this role as a major catalyst easing him out of his shell.

Given the amount of audience interaction, including the occasional chance to dance with Harrison’s character, the show changes from night to night and city to city. During a performance in North Carolina, for example, Harrison ad-libbed a line about his androgynous character having difficulty finding an appropriate restroom — he found the audience hungry to vent their frustration with him. Harrison says he looks forward to being back in Atlanta in the week before the election, really opening the possibilities for how this specific staging can go.

Cabaret, for the uninitiated, is set in 1931 Berlin in a deliciously dirty nightclub. The seedy backdrop carries a foreboding tone as artists and everyday citizens indulge in escapist entertainment, while the Nazi movement gathers strength in the city. Much of Cabaret’s dialogue, written in response to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, is unfortunately spot-on today without the need for many updates.

“Audiences may think that we’ve added some of the most relevant political material, but that has always been in there,” Harrison says. “The message of the show, for me, is that there are repercussions for being politically disengaged, how that can escalate.”

Harrison is no stranger to edgy, political material. Within three months of graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 2000, he landed a starring role as Justin on the racy Showtime television series “Queer as Folk.” He has since continued to perform live theater, including a stint on Broadway opposite Joel Grey in the musical Wicked. He says he plans to stick with the Cabaret tour through February 2017.

“I’ve found myself loving America more than I expected,” he says, noting the interesting differences in audience reactions as the tour travels the country. “The reaction is always different, and it’s not necessarily what you would expect.”

Cabaret. 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., Nov. 1-3; 8 p.m. Fri., Nov. 4; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 5; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 6. The Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E. 404-881-2100. foxtheatre.org.

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