I don’t really remember what my first real encounter with live theater was, it could’ve been something I saw my grandpa or one of my uncles perform in, some local show, or a cast album or movie adaptation of one of my mom’s favorites (Jesus Christ Superstar I’m looking at you). But I do remember singing in the mirror “Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the Cabaret…” ala Liza in Cabaret. To me Bob Fosse and Cabaret defined Broadway - all based on the movie and album my mom had
So it was filled my Broadway loving heart to not only hear I was finally get my chance to see this Tony Award-winning show live when it comes to San Francisco this month but that I would also get the chance to chat with Andrea Goss who is starring as the incomparable Sally Bowles.
PopWrapped: Tell us a little bit about this current production of Cabaret and what it’s like playing an iconic role like Sally Bowles.
Andrea Goss: This production, or this incarnation of it started in 1993 with Sam Mendes and Alan Cumming and it kind of evolved through that and became what it is now in 1998 at Studio 54 with Sam Mendes and Rob Marhsall as co-directors of this piece. Most people think of the movei when they hear Cabaret but this piece is much different, much grittier, it has a litttle more edge to it and it’s really an incredible piece. It tells a story two couples, an older couple and a younger couple, during 1929 to 1930 and the rise of the Nazi party and it’s seen through the eyes of the cabaret. And amazing tool in the theater. It’s brilliant. And Randy Harrison plays the Emcee and he’s so funny and charming and witty. And I think that’s part of the brilliance of the piece is that it is so funny and charismatic and then it turns on you and the audience isn’t expecting it, which I think brings the audience in even more and kind of makes them complacent at the end of the story.
I play Sally Bowles, a 19 year old British club singer and she is fun and is kind of the party girl. But underneath it all she’s really just a scared child. She’s trying to survive in this crazy world that is happening in Germany at the time and you just watch her journey as she falls in love with an american writer and how the politics of that time affects their relationship.
PW: The role of Sally Bowles has become so iconic in the last couple decades, and was kind of defined by Liza. What’s it like stepping into such an iconic role?
AG: Most people know the Liza version or the 1998 Natasha Richardson version, which she won a Tony for, and it is a little daunting at first, because so many incredible actresses have played the role. I think so many incredible actresses have played the role because it is written so incredibly by Joe Masteroff, who wrote the book, and Kander and Ebb, who wrote the music. I think people are drawn to it because it’s such a challenging role. But at the end of the day I can’t take on that kind of pressure. My goal is to tell the story and to make it my own. It doesn’t really serve the story for me to try to replicate Liza’s performance or replicate Natasha’s performance. Like I said, it was daunting at first, I had to put that aside and find my own way into the story. We have an amazing choreographer and director and an amazing cast. We just got to really play and find our own version. I think for me, it’s a dream role. I never imagined I get the chance to play it. So I feel extremely lucky. And even though I done this role several time now, 8 shows a week for the past several months, I still to this day keep finding new things in her every single night and I think that is a testament to the writing. You don’t get a lot of writing these days like they did.
PW: So how did you end up in theater?
AG: Actually I started with music. The best gift my parents ever gave me, they started me at piano lessons when I was three years old, and I stuck with it. I think for me the way in was music. I played the piano and then I picked up the violin and then I started singing in choir in school. And then in high school a friend was auditioning for a theater show at our high school and she didn’t want to go to the audition alone so she asked me to go with her and I did and I fell in love with that. I grew up in Salem, Oregon and there’s a little bit of theater around, not a ton, there’s more in Portland. So I got to see a few shows my parents took me to but I didn’t really realize you could do acting and singing and dancing and play instruments in one career. And when I realized that in high school I instantly knew I wanted to do that. So I went to Syracuse University and majored in musical theater and moved to New York, and I’ve been lucky ever since. I think it was my parents starting me on piano at three that really started everything for me. I think music is such a gift and can open so many doors whether it’s going into professionally or not. I think music is incredibly important.
PW: So far what role has been the highlight of your career so far?
AG: I would have to say Sally, right now. She is such a challenging layered role. I’ve been lucky with different roles I’ve gotten to play over the years, but there’s something about Sally. Like I said to this day I’m still finding new things everyday, new moments, and new connections to people. She’s a complicated character and some people say she’s not the most liked character in theater because of some of the choices she makes. But it’s interesting to discover why she makes them and make her human and make her likeable and make people see her that way. And I still keep peeling back the layers of her and I feel that as an actor it really fulfilling doing that and it’s interesting. It’s been a fun journey with this one.
PW: If you could reach for any dream role, that you have not played, what would it be?
AG: I think my dream role would be something new. I really love working on new pieces. I love doing new readings of material and a lot of times those don't get picked up, but I really like being at the beginning of something and developing new works. I think to me that is an ultimate goal is to really form my own character with some writers. That’s a dream for me.
PW: With the mainstream success of this year’s Tony’s and of shows like Hamilton do you find the popularity growing on the tour scene in general?
AG: I do. I think a lot of that social media. Like theater can be livestreamed. I just saw recently that they are going to live stream the Roundabout Production of She Loves Me for people who can’t get to new York to see it. I think even the popularity of Hamilton, social media help blow it up. It’s incredible writing, I was lucky enough to go see it and it;s a brilliant show. Social media and the technology that is available can help spread it to people who can’t see it and make people passionate about theater. And helps National Tours which can bring shows from New York. It’s exciting that people are getting excited about theater and will maybe take a chance on new shows like Hamilton. I think it’s an exciting time for theater and I hope it keeps expanding. It is such a different age now, there’s good things and bad things about technology but being able to share what we love and having more of an audience to do it is incredible. It’s opens the door.
PW: How long is this tour of Cabaret going to last and what’s next for you?
AG: We’re actually booked through August of 2017 which is incredible that they’ve scheduled it that far out. I think it’s a brilliant production and it’s really fun to see different audiences and their different reactions to it. After San Francisco we actually head to L.A. for three weeks and then Costa Mesa and San Diego. It’s kind of our summer is mostly in California which is really fun for us. And this is my first tour so I’m really excited to see all these cities. And meet new people.
Thanks Andrea for the chat! And remember what Sally says when you see Cabaret coming to a theater near you, “What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret!”