Randy Harrison, the out gay actor who played Justin in Showtime's Queer as Folk (and was number 34 on AfterElton.com's Hot 100) left television behind when that series wrapped in 2005, saying he wanted to focus on the stage. Lots of television actors say that's what they're doing even though secretly all they really want out of life is to be a movie star, but Randy seems to mean it — and have the chops to do it, too.
He's appeared on stage in Equus (and here I will shallowly admit that his hair in the promotional photographs was the kind of thing that sustains my belief in a benevolent deity ruling over a peaceful universe), as Mozart in Amadeus, as Boq in Wicked, and most recently as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, all to reviews ranging from good to glowing.
And now he's grabbing a surprisingly large and positive amount of critical attention as the charming cad Frank Gardner in Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession at the prestigious Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, MA. While one critic did seem to think he fidgeted too much, whatever that means, all the other critical mentions have been positive — too many to list, in fact, so here are just a few:
The Boston Globe described Frank as "the young ne'er-do-well next door (Randy Harrison of "Queer as Folk," summoning some of the ludic qualities that made him such a superb "Amadeus" at BTF last season)." Theatermania didn't care for the production but singled Harrison's performance out for a positive mention. NewBerkshire.com loved him:
Frank, (Randy Harrison) the youngest of the quartet is charming, ardent, fickle, an amiable weakling, supportive of Vinie and loving her, but practical enough to know without her mother’s money to back them marrying her would never work because he is well aware he is incapable of earning any. A well-defined character, and one distinctively different from those leads he has played with skill in “Equus” and “Amadeus.”
Randy Harrison plays … Frank, with a persuasive charm that, aside from his Adonis-like handsomeness, is his chief means of survival. But Harrison, who seems to improve on excellence each successive year at BTF, provides dimension in also emphasizing the humanity Shaw has given him.
Of course, real Randy fans will never forget his stage debut as Winthrop in The Music Man in 1987, when he was 10 years old. Personally, while I'll concede he's grown up since then (he's now 29), I admit I'm wondering if in addition to having the best hair ever, he's been bathing in the blood of virgins or something, since no matter how hard I look at the photos from Mrs. Warren's Profession, he doesn't seem to look any older as the years go by.
One thing's for sure: If it's really what he wants, it looks like Harrison has a glowing career in the theater ahead of him. Even if I do still kind of miss seeing him on TV.