Alec Leesburg is one of those guys you look at and think, “Yeah, he plays a sport.” Alec does play for our Vikings football team, but once the Berry College Theatre Company’s production of Cabaret opens this Thursday, you’ll see him singing and dancing his way through a Berlin nightclub in Nazi Germany.
I spoke to Alec, who will be playing the Emcee in the show, about his experience on and off stage.
Let’s start with the basics: Year? Major? Where are you from?
“I’m a junior Creative Technologies major with minors in Computer Science, Physics, and Business. I’m from Lakeside High School in Augusta, Georgia.”
How long have you been doing theatre?
“This is only my third show, but I’ve been involved in the arts all of my life. I was previously Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods at my high school, and I puppeteered the giant plant, Audrey 2, in Berry College Theatre Company’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. I would have done much more theater in high school, but my school was very much involved in competitive show choir, so I did that instead. I’ve also won a state championship in barbershop quartet and sang in Carnegie Hall in the 7th grade with the Augusta Children’s Chorale. In addition to dancing in show choir, I also have five years of ballroom dance training.”
What made you audition for Cabaret in general, but more specifically for the Emcee? What drew you to the role?
“The truth is, I actually didn’t audition for the Emcee specifically. I went into auditions hoping I would just make it into the ensemble in general. I was very honored when I found out that I was chosen to portray such an important and fascinating character in the show, and I’ve put a lot of work in to ensure that the Emcee gets the treatment I feel he deserves. After I was cast, I was definitely drawn to the role because of how complex it is. The Emcee is never exactly as he seems. There’s almost always something more sinister going on below the surface. The flamboyancy, hyper-sexuality…all of it is just a front for what’s really going on. As for why I tried out, it was always my intention to try out for whatever musical or play Berry was putting on during this time of the year. I love being on stage, and with so much of my time going to football, this is the only chance each year I have to be in a show.”
I’ll address the elephant in the room: You’re a football player, doing theatre. Society says that’s a big no-no. Have you received any backlash from anyone, like your team, family, or friends, about being involved in theatre? Have you received any backlash from the cast about being in football?
“I’ve been doing football and the arts for so long, honestly I’ve stopped caring. In high school it was definitely a much bigger deal because I feel like people’s minds were much more closed than they are at a place like Berry. I’ve heard nothing but support from everyone that knows that I’m involved in the show. My family loves seeing me onstage, and I know they’re excited to come see me. The team and the coaches have been extremely supportive as well, and I bet the majority of them will be in attendance. I don’t think I’d go ahead and say the team thinks that it’s cool to be in the show, but they definitely respect my decision to be in it, and a lot of them are excited to see other talents I have besides just being a football player. The cast definitely hasn’t been prejudiced against me at all and have welcomed me with open arms.”
Has your football background helped at all, especially in a dance-heavy show like Cabaret?
“Football has definitely helped me during this show. I’ve benefitted from doing both weightlifting and conditioning with the team in the morning, and dancing, singing, and working the show at night. I also rarely wear sleeves during the show, so I’m glad I work out with the team so often! Football also teaches body control and footwork, both of which are extremely important when on stage.”
What’s been your favorite part of the rehearsal process?
“Running the show has been my favorite part of the rehearsal process. I love watching and interacting with the rest of this incredibly talented cast. We feed off of each other’s energy, and every time we run the show it just gets bigger and bigger, and I can tell when it’s done it’s definitely going to be something to watch.”
What’s your favorite song from the show?
“’Money’ has to be my favorite song. There are so many good ones to choose from, but ‘Money’ is my favorite because of how the song builds. When it starts, everyone is all calm, cool and collected, but the song just crescendos to the point where everyone’s screaming loudly and grabbing and being aggressive. Plus, the verses have so many words in them, I get to pretend that I’m in Hamilton for a little bit.”
Why should people come see this show? Some may say it’s “controversial.” Why should people look past the scantily clad people and scandalous topics and see Cabaret?
“I think people who come to the show will really appreciate just how important this show is. Yes, the show has a lot of overt sexuality and is controversial and may offend some people. But there really is a lot of meaning behind it all. In trying our best to recreate Berlin during this time period, our production of Cabaret tells a significant and timely story of distraction, scapegoating and shattered dreams. I would encourage anyone questioning whether or not they should go to come see the show. Everything we do, we do for a reason.”