BY MARK KENNEDY | ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — The national tour of the thrilling musical “Cabaret” is about to launch and it’s led by a young woman who knows it intimately. After all, she watched it for a year on Broadway — from the stage.
Andrea Goss will play the fishnet-and-bowler hat wearing chanteuse Sally Bowles after being a member of the ensemble and an understudy for Sally. She patiently backed up Michelle Williams, Emma Stone and Sienna Miller.
“You learn from everybody you watch. You can’t ignore the incredible women who I saw do it and also the ones before,” said Goss, from Salem, Oregon, who also cited Natasha Richardson and Liza Minnelli as important Sallys. “You have to somehow pay homage but still make it your own and bring your own to it.”
The tour, which also stars “Queer as Folk” star Randy Harrison as the slippery Emcee, kicks off in Rhode Island on Tuesday before making its way to Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, Ohio, Nevada, and California.
“Cabaret” centers on the world of the indulgent Kit Kat Klub in Berlin as it becomes intertwined with the world outside, which gets more precarious on the brink of World War II. The songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb include “Willkommen” and “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”
It debuted in Boston in 1966 and was a sensation — audiences were not used to going to shows that mixed burlesque call girls and Nazis, lasciviousness, alcoholism or abortions.
“I always thought that this show was very iffy. We had done so many things that nobody in their right mind would have done. That it worked was a pleasant surprise,” said Joe Masteroff, who adapted the story. “‘Cabaret’ turned out to have a long life. Obviously, it’s not dead yet.”
The new touring version is directed by B.T. McNicholl, who will recreate the Broadway direction by Sam Mendes and co-direction and choreography by Rob Marshall. It won the best revival Tony in 1998.
“This particular production transformed the musical and almost transformed Broadway theater,” said Todd Haimes, the artistic director of the Roundabout Theatre Company, which birthed the production. “I think it’s something that should be seen by every generation.”
Harrison, who has been in “Wicked” on Broadway, saw Alan Cumming three times as the lascivious Master of Ceremonies and leapt at the chance to play the role, one that’s both naughty and heartbreaking.
“It’s a dream part. It’s an extraordinary role. It’s an amazing challenge,” he said. “I feel like I can be myself in a lot of ways — in ways that oftentimes I can’t onstage.”
Goss, whose Broadway credits also include “Once” and “Rent,” will be hitting the road for the first time in a show and will be looking forward to exploring coffee shops wherever she is. She’s still a little stunned that the role of Sally is finally hers.
“It’s a dream. I never thought I would be able to do that when I was younger. You see those roles and it’s like, ‘That’s out of my league.’ And to be able to do this, I’m still in a dream.”
NOTE: “Cabaret” runs through Feb. 21 at Chicago’s newly renamed PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. For show times and tickets, visit broadwayinchicago.com.