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Cabaret, set in the tumultuous city of Berlin just before Hitler’s rise to power, is based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories and John Van Druten’s I Am a Camera. The main action of the play revolves around a cabaret performer, Sally Bowles, and the brief affair she has with an American writer who takes her in after she is kicked out of the Kit Kat Club where she performs. Although Sally and Clifford soon find themselves deeply in love, there is too much chaos in the world around them. Soon they find their relationship is being jeopardized by outside forces which threaten to tear them apart. Also figuring prominently is the tragic relationship between Fräulein Schneider, a German woman, and her Jewish suitor Herr Schultz.

 

SYNOPSIS: As the Nazis begin their rise to power in Germany in the late 1920s, American writer Clifford Bradshaw visits Berlin. After making a few friends and finding housing, Clifford visits the sleazy Kit Kat Club and meets an English singer, Sally Bowles. The writer and singer soon fall in love. Meanwhile, Clifford’s elderly landlord, Fraulein Schneider, gets engaged to a Jewish greengrocer, Herr Schultz – not an easy decision given the increasing influence of the Nazis. Soon, Clifford discovers that he has been inadvertently helping the Nazis by delivering packages to Paris for a German friend of his, Ernst Ludwig. Clifford ends up deciding to return to the United States but Sally, after aborting their baby, decides to remain in Berlin.

 

From Christopher Isherwoods’s original Berlin Stories to its first dramatization as I Am A Camera and then on to the various productions since 1966 of the Kander and Ebb musical version, Cabaret, this has been a work of imagination that has intrigued several generations of readers and theater and movie audiences. It offers skillfully drawn portraits of a group of characters caught up in a moment of history – Weimar Germany, the period between the World Wars when individuality and creativity flourished in a society struggling with economic difficulty and the fallout of defeat in World War I.

What Isherwood captured, and at the heart of this work, is decadence – individual decadence, personified in the character of Sally Bowles, within the milieu of the decadent cafe society of 1930’s Berlin and the still broader-sweep backdrop of the rising ultimate social decadence known as Nazism. The representation of decadence fascinates because it examines an edge of human experience, a place that exists within all of us, but that only a fringe minority explore beyond the realm of their fantasies. Art takes us where the reality of most lives doesn’t allow us, or where we choose not, to go.

 

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Cabaret opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 20, 1966 and ran for 1,165 performances. The original cast featured Joel Grey (Emcee), Jill Haworth (Sally), Bert Convy (Clifford), Jack Gifford (Herr Schultz), and Lotte Lenya (Fräulein Schneider). The show was revived at the Imperial Theatre on October 22, 1987, with Grey reprising his original role. The 1972 film version featured Liza Minnelli (Sally), Joel Grey (Emcee), Michael York (Clifford).

The Italian version featuring Maria Laura Baccarini (Sally), Gennaro Cannavacciuolo (Emcee), G.Carosi (Cliff),C.Reali (H. Schultz),M.D’Alessio (F.Schneider), opened at the Sala Tripcovich in Trieste on June 26, 1993 and run for two years, touring all Italy.

 

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