CABARET SYNOPSIS Lyrics
The libretto of Cabaret was based on Christopher Isherwood’s lightly autobiographical short stories about life in Berlin in the years under the rule of the Nazi party, and on the play drawn from them by John van Druten and produced, with considerable success, as I Am a Camera. The musical’s action was set up in the ‘framework’ manner, with the principal tale of the piece loosely (though not wholly) inset into the entertainment and goings-on in a strikingly decadent Berlin cabaret house, and introduced by a leering, epicene Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey). Ebb and Kander’s songs were shared between material for the cabaret scenes and numbers set into the two romances of the text. Harold Prince’s Tony Award winning production played had a good and widely enough spread life, if not an outstanding one, and that might pretty well have been it. But a 1972 film version of Cabaret gave the show a second and even more popular lease of life. The screenplay kept, though slightly altered, the Cliff/Sally story, but cut the Schneider/Schultz plot and replaced it by another love story, for younger and more beautiful people, culled from elsewhere in Isherwood’s tales. The score, deprived of Fraulein Schneider’s characterful numbers, more than compensated with a new solo for Sally in the trumpetingly desperate ‘Maybe This Time’, a raunchier ‘Mein Herr’ to replace the nearly-naughty ‘Don’t Tell Mama’, and a new money number, ‘Money, Money, Money’, like the two other added pieces featuring the film’s star, Liza Minnelli, in the role of Sally. Grey repeated his stage Emcee, at the head of Bob Fosse’s cabaret entertainment, whilst Marisa Berenson and Fritz Wepper were the personable pair with problems of Judaism and Helmut Griem appeared as a representative of cultured decadence, a beautiful, blue-eyed Baron who has affairs with both Sally and Brian (ex-Cliff). The enormous success of the film — one of the very few films of a popular musical play to actually outrank its original stage show — led not only to a worldwide fame for the piece, and to many further productions in a multiplicity of areas and languages, but also to a considerable alteration in the nature of the show and, in particular, of the role of Sally Bowles. The stinging vocalizing of Miss Minnelli was remembered by future inhabitants of the role rather than the vulnerable character that went with it.
"There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world...and we were fast asleep...." In the darkness, silence. A drum roll builds steadily like a wave, and crashes with a cymbal's sharp reverberation. From the orchestra, a steady vamp begins. As the pulse grows stronger a spotlight on the stage grows brighter. Then, into the spotlight he steps. Chalk white face, crimson lips, he is as menacing as he is fascinating, he is the EMCEE. He invites us and we follow-into the decadent provocative world of the cabaret.
Sally Bowles, a little middle-class lass from Chelsea, London, is working as a singer at Berlin’s Kit-Kat Club and doing her not very good best to live the thrillingly decadent life which the city is supposed to offer. Into her orbit comes Cliff Bradshaw, a young American writer, and Sally soon moves determinedly in to join him in his room in the boarding house run by Fraulein Schneider. Their fellow lodgers include the cheerful whore, Fraulein Kost, and the gentle, graying fruiterer Herr Schultz. As the clouds gather, Sally, now pregnant by Cliff, is still determined to show the world what a good time she is having and she will not or cannot hear the noises of Nazism around her. But the others can.
Schultz courts Fraulein Schneider with old-world courtesy and they become engaged, but the fruiterer is Jewish and, when some Nazi sympathizers break up their engagement party, the old maid is obliged to let her dream of a marriage go. Cliff finds he has been almost unwittingly couriering Nazi funds for one of his language pupils and he is beaten up when he refuses to continue to do so. It is time to leave Berlin. But poor, self-deluded Sally cannot let the party end. She has her child aborted and, all responsibility gone, she watches Cliff take the train for Paris alone. Back in the cabaret, the Emcee introduces the same show as before, but it is harsher, and soon it will be dark.
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