Randy Harrison has spent the past four years starring as young gay artist Justin Taylor on Showtime's hit series, "Queer as Folk." Now, the 27-year-old actor is appearing in another hit, the Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman musical Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.
Through July 25, Harrison can be seen as munchkin Boq, the role created on Broadway by Christopher Fitzgerald, who will return to the part after a stint at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Though Wicked marks Harrison's Broadway debut, the openly gay actor is no stranger to the musical theatre.
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music, Harrison has appeared in productions of Grease, Anything Goes and West Side Story and received his Equity card after a production of 1776 at the St. Louis Muny Theatre. Harrison admits, however, that he has purposefully avoided musicals for the past few years. "I was doing so many musicals I got sort of frustrated with [them] and wanted to do something different," Harrison said a week before his Wicked debut. "By the time I graduated [from the Conservatory of Music], I was like, 'I gotta do something different for awhile' because I didn't want to be trapped in musical theatre. But now it's been five years since I've done a musical, and I'm really excited to go back."
Wicked marks Harrison's third New York stage outing. Having made his Off-Broadway debut in the MCC production of A Letter from Ethel Kennedy, he was also a part of Sophie Rand's dark comedy Deviant at the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival. Replacing an actor in a big Broadway musical, however, poses its own set of challenges. Unlike the four-to-six-week rehearsal period that actors enjoy before a show opens, replacement actors have comparatively little time to shape their performance. "I think I'll go in having had about six or seven rehearsals [plus] watching the show a lot," said Harrison. "It's plenty of time to learn it, though, at least for this part. I know where I stand and where I go and when I say what I say, but I'll never really have the opportunity to work with the people I'm going to be onstage with until I'm onstage with them." When asked whether his "Queer as Folk" co-stars would catch his Wicked run, Harrison said, "If they're in town, I'm sure they'd come see me, [but] they're all L.A.-based." The Showtime series, Harrison added, "has been such a great opportunity. I love all the people I work with." There has been talk that the ground-breaking series will end its run after its fifth season next year. Should that be the case, Harrison would like the ending to "be very melodramatic — maybe I could die in a traumatic accident or get hit by a truck. But I have ridiculous aspirations for the show."
As for his plans post-"Queer as Folk," the young actor said, "I'd like to come back to New York, continue doing theatre and film. I just like to work. I love acting, so I'm always happy when I have a job."
Wicked plays the Gershwin Theatre, 222 West 51st Street; call (212) 307-4100 for tickets.