WILLKOMMEN: RANDY HARRISON
In some ways, Randy Harrison grew up preparing for the role he is playing now.
The actor had long admired Joel Grey's mesmerizing performance as the Emcee in Cabaret. After getting a bachelor's degree in musical theater, Harrison crisscrossed the country, playing in every genre. He performed in plays by Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett and Peter Shaffer. He sang in The Music Man, West Side Story, The Who's Tommy and Silence! The Musical. Most of those roles came after Harrison played the role for which is remembered most, as Justin Taylor in Showtime's Queer as Folk from 2000 to 2005.
Harrison is now playing a role he had long admired in others (notably Grey and Alan Cumming), as the Emcee in Roundabout Theatre's 50th anniversary production of Cabaret, which runs through Sunday at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. For him, it's both political and personal.
"The show is all about the consequences of political disengagement," said Harrison, 39. Set in Germany shortly before Hitler took power, Cabaret starkly contrasts the cavalier attitude among revelers at the Kit Kat Klub with the surge of an oppressive regime.
"The parallels between the Weimar era and political disengagement of our era are painfully obvious," Harrison said. While hardly a feel-good musical, Cabaret has endured alongside the liked of Mamma Mia! and The Lion King for a reason.
"The music is a huge part of it," Harrison said. "Americans know and most love deeply songs like Maybe This Time and Willkommen. Although it's dark, it's so relevant. It's been relevant since it was created."
It runs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday ; 8 p.m. Friday; 1 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Straz Center's Morsani Hall, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $31 and up. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.
DOES THE TRICK: ELIXIR OF LOVE
A leading man returns this weekend and his co-star debuts with the St. Petersburg Opera Company’s production of Gaetano Donizetti's The Elixir of Love. The comic opera pits a penniless man and a glamorous landowner against the wiles of a quack physician and a jealous rival. As the peasant Nemorino, Blake Friedman brings a lengthy operatic resume (he soloed recently with the New York City Ballet and served as resident tenor for the American Opera Project) and high praise for versatility and tone. Bridgette Gan, who plays his love interest, the landowner Adina, has been turning heads in roles with the Palm Beach Opera and Opera Orlando. 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Palladium Theatre, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $22-$67. (727) 822-3590. mypalladium.org.
SIT A SPELL: WICKED
One of Broadway's most popular musicals is back, this time for most of February. Wicked follows the unlikely friendship between a misunderstood woman and a popular blond in the land of Oz. Performances by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth immortalized such numbers as Defying Gravity and For Good, and the show has proven popular with all ages. Opening 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 26 at the Straz Center. $52.50 and up. (813) 229-7827. strazcenter.org.
TOP SHELF: JOSHUA BELL
After a canceling a scheduled performance last fall, Joshua Bell appears Sunday the Straz Center. Aside from being one of the most acclaimed violinists in the world, Bell gained viral notoriety after playing in a Washington, D.C. subway arcade for a rush hour crowd. Accounts of his performances and its mostly indifferent reception went viral. At the behest of the Washington Post, Bell played work by Bach, Schubert and others for 45 minutes. Of 1,097 passersby, just seven stopped to listen. Bell's concert Sunday will include work by Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and Brahms. 7 p.m. Sunday at the Straz Center. $65 and up.