|Original Broadway Cast recording|
|Basis||John Van Druten's play
I Am a Camera
1968 West End
1986 West End revival
1987 Broadway revival
1998 Broadway revival
2006 West End revival
2008 UK Tour
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Score
Tony Award for Best Revival
Drama Desk for Outstanding Revival
Cabaret is a musical with a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander. The 1966 Broadway production became a hit and spawned a 1972 film as well as numerous subsequent productions.
It is based on John Van Druten's 1951 play I Am a Camera, which in turn was adapted from the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood. Set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, it focuses on nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and revolves around the 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with young American writer Cliff Bradshaw.
A sub-plot involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor. Overseeing the action is the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub which serves as a constant metaphor for the current state of society in Weimar Germany throughout the show.
Sandy Wilson, who had achieved success with The Boy Friend in the 1950s, had completed the book and most of the score for Goodbye to Berlin, his musicalization of I Am a Camera, when he discovered producer David Black's option on both the 1951 Van Druten play and its source material by Christopher Isherwood had lapsed and been acquired by Harold Prince. Prince commissioned Joe Masteroff to work on the book, and when the two men agreed Wilson's score failed to capture the essence of late-1920s Berlin, John Kander and Fred Ebb were invited to join the project. The new version was initially a dramatic play preceded by a prologue of songs describing the Berlin atmosphere from various points of view. As the composers began to distribute the songs between scenes, they realized the story could be told in the structure of a more traditional book musical, and they replaced some of the songs with tunes more relevant to the plot. Isherwood's original characters began to change as well. The male lead became an American writer who teaches English; the anti-Semitic landlady was transformed into a tolerant woman with a beau, Herr Schultz, who owned a fruit store; two language students were eliminated; and two characters - prostitute Fräulein Kost and Nazi Ernst Ludwig - were added to the mix. The musical ultimately became two separate stories in one, the first a revue centered on the decadence of the seedy Kit Kat Club, the second a story set in the real world in which the club existed. 
After seeing one of the last rehearsals before the company headed to Boston for the pre-Broadway run, Jerome Robbins suggested the musical sequences outside the cabaret be eliminated. Although Prince ignored his advice, Bob Fosse did just that when he directed the film adaptation. In Boston, Jill Haworth struggled with her characterization of cabaret performer Sally Bowles. She was a blonde dressed in a white dress that suggested senior prom more than tawdry nightclub. Prince put her in a black wig and garish costumes that someone close to the production felt didn't look right, but the director was at a loss as to how else he could elicit the proper performance from his star.
Prince's staging was unusual for the time. As the audience filled the theater, the curtain was already up, revealing a stage containing nothing but a large mirror reflecting the auditorium. There was no overture; instead, a drum roll and cymbal crash led into the opening number. The juxtaposition of dialogue scenes with songs used as exposition and separate cabaret numbers providing social commentary was a novel concept that initially startled the audience, but as they gradually came to understand the difference between the two, they were able to accept the reasoning behind them. 
After 21 previews, the original Broadway production, directed by Harold Prince and choreographed by Ron Field, opened on November 20, 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre, eventually transferring first to the Imperial and then the Broadway before finally completing its 1,165-performance run. The opening night cast included Jill Haworth as Sally, Bert Convy as Cliff, Lotte Lenya as Fräulein Schneider, Jack Gilford as Herr Schultz, and Joel Grey as the Emcee, with Edward Winter and Peg Murray in supporting roles. Replacements later in the run included Anita Gillette as Sally, Ken Kercheval and Larry Kert as Cliff, and Martin Ross as the Emcee.
After 18 previews, the first Broadway revival, again directed by Prince and choreographed by Field, opened on October 22, 1987 at the Imperial Theatre, eventually transferring to the Minskoff to complete its 261-performance run. Joel Grey received star billing as the Emcee, with Alyson Reed as Sally, Gregg Edelman as Cliff, Regina Resnik as Fräulein Schneider, and Werner Klemperer as Herr Schultz. The song "Don't Go" was added for Cliff's character.
The second Broadway revival was a transfer of the Sam Mendes-directed Donmar Warehouse production. Co-directed by Mendes and Rob Marshall and choreographed by Marshall, it opened after 37 previews on March 19, 1998 at the Kit Kat Klub, housed in what previously had been known as Henry Miller's Theatre. Later that year it transferred to Studio 54, where it remained for the rest of its 2377-performance run, becoming the third longest-running revival in Broadway musical history, third only to Oh! Calcutta! and Chicago. In addition to Alan Cumming as the Emcee, the original cast included Natasha Richardson as Sally, John Benjamin Hickey as Cliff, Ron Rifkin as Herr Schultz, and Mary Louise Wilson as Fräulein Schneider.
This production featured a number of notable replacements later in the run: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joely Fisher, Gina Gershon, Deborah Gibson, Teri Hatcher, Melina Kanakaredes, Jane Leeves, Molly Ringwald, Brooke Shields, and Lea Thompson as Sally; Michael C. Hall, Raúl Esparza, Neil Patrick Harris, Adam Pascal, Jon Secada, Norbert Leo Butz and John Stamos as the Emcee; Boyd Gaines as Cliff; Tom Bosley, Dick Latessa, Hal Linden, Laurence Luckinbill, and Tony Roberts as Herr Schultz; and Blair Brown, Polly Bergen, Mariette Hartley and Carole Shelley as Fräulein Schneider.
Mendes' conception differed greatly from the original. Possibly the most significant change was in the character of the Emcee. The role was initially played by Joel Grey as an androgynous, stiff, marionette-like character in a tuxedo with rouged cheeks, but Cumming's portrayal was highly sexualized, wearing suspenders (i.e. braces) around his crotch and red paint on his nipples. The cabaret number "Two Ladies" was staged with the Emcee, a cabaret girl, and a cabaret boy in drag and included a shadow play simulating various sexual positions. The score was entirely re-orchestrated, utilizing synthesizer effects and expanding the stage band, with all the instruments now being played by the cabaret girls and boys. "Sitting Pretty" was eliminated entirely and replaced with "Money"; "I Don't Care Much," which was cut from the original production, was reinstated; and "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time," written for the film adaptation, were added to the score. Staging details differed as well; instead of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" being performed by a male choir, the Emcee plays a recording of a boy soprano singing it. Most dramatic of all was in the final scene in which the Emcee removes his outer clothes to reveal a striped suit of the type worn by the internees in concentration camps on which were pinned a yellow Star of David (identifying a Jewish prisoner) and a pink triangle (denoting a homosexual prisoner). Other changes included added references to Cliff's homosexuality, including a brief scene where he kisses one of the Cabaret boys.
The production won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
There have been three major London revivals: in 1986, at the Strand Theatre with Kelly Hunter as Sally, Peter Land as Cliff and Wayne Sleep as the Emcee directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne; in 1993, a critically-acclaimed limited run at the Donmar Warehouse directed by Sam Mendes, with Alan Cumming as the Emcee, Jane Horrocks as Sally Bowles, Adam Godley as Cliff and Sara Kestelman as Fraulein Schneider; and in 2006 at the Lyric Theatre directed by Rufus Norris, opening with Anna Maxwell Martin as Sally, James Dreyfus as the Emcee, Harriet Thorpe as Fraulein Kost and Sheila Hancock as Fräulein Schneider (winning a Laurence Olivier Award for best supporting actress). Replacements in the cast have included Kim Medcalf and then Amy Nuttall as Sally, Honor Blackman and then Angela Richards as Fräulein Schneider, Julian Clary and then Alistair McGowan as Emcee. This production began touring the UK in 2008 into 2009, with a regional company starring Wayne Sleep as the Emcee and Samantha Barks as Sally Bowles (later replaced by Siobhan Dillon).
Several subsequent productions of the play have followed the Mendes version fairly closely, including a 2003 production staged in Spanish at the Teatro Nuevo Alcalá in Madrid directed by B.T. McNicholl and starring Natalia Millán as Sally, Asier Etxeandia as Emcee and Manuel Bandera as Cliff, and a 2005-2006 Mexican production, directed by Academy Award nominee Felipe Fernández del Paso and starring Itatí Cantoral, Fernanda Castillo, Kika Édgar and Chantal Andere in the role of Sally, and Luis Fernando Guzmán and Bruno Bichir as the Emcee. There was also a 2006 production staged in French at the Folies Bergère in Paris with Claire Perot as Sally Bowles, Fabian Richard as Emcee and Geoffroy Guerrier as Cliff, and a 2008 production at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. There was also the Australian Sam Mendes production in 2002 starring Toby Allen, Judi Connelli and Nadine Garner. The role of Sally was played by Tina Arena in Sydney, and Lisa McCune in Melbourne. Since May 13, 2009 a production of Cabaret is being staged in Peru at the Teatro Segura in Lima, directed by Mateo Chiarella and starring Marco Zunino as Emcee and Gisela Ponce de León as Sally. In July, 2009, a production of Cabaret was produced by Houston's Theatre Under the Stars for a two week engagement at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway actress Leslie Kritzer (Legally Blonde The Musical; Rooms; A Catered Affair) starred as Sally Bowles.
At the dawn of the 1930s in Berlin, the Nazi party quietly grows stronger. The Kit Kat Klub is a seedy cabaret, a place of decadent celebration set against the backdrop of growing Nazi terror. The Klub's Master of Ceremonies, or Emcee, together with the cabaret girls and waiters, warm up the audience ("Willkommen"). In a train station, Clifford Bradshaw, a young American writer coming to Berlin in the hopes of finding inspiration for his new novel, arrives. He meets Ernst Ludwig, a German who offers Cliff work and also recommends a boardinghouse. At the boardinghouse, Fräulein Schneider offers Cliff a room for one hundred marks; he can only pay fifty. After a brief debate, she relents and lets Cliff live there for fifty marks. Fräulein Schneider observes that she has learned to take whatever life offers ("So What?").
As Cliff visits the Kit Kat Klub, the Emcee introduces a British singer, Sally Bowles, who performs a racy, flirtatious number ("Don't Tell Mama"). Afterward, she asks Cliff to recite poetry for her; he recites "Casey at the Bat". Cliff offers to take Sally home, but she says that her boyfriend Max, the club's owner, is too jealous. Sally then performs her final number at the Kit Kat Club aided by the female ensemble ("Mein Herr"). The cabaret ensemble then performs a song and dance, calling each other on inter-table phones and inviting each other for dances and drinks ("The Telephone Song").
The next day, Cliff has just finished giving Ernst an English lesson when Sally arrives. Max has fired her and thrown her out, and now she has no place to live, and so she asks him if she can live in his room. At first he resists, but she convinces him (and Fräulein Schneider) to take her in ("Perfectly Marvelous"). The Emcee and two female companions sing a song ("Two Ladies") that comments on Cliff and Sally's unusual living conditions (In most productions, one of the girls is played by a man). In Fräulein Schneider's apartment Herr Schultz, an elderly Jewish fruit-shop owner who lives in the boardinghouse, has given Fräulein Schneider a pineapple as a gift ("It Couldn't Please Me More"). Contrastingly, in the Kit Kat Klub, a young waiter begins singing a patriotic anthem to the Fatherland ("Tomorrow Belongs to Me") a cappella, with others joining him, including the Emcee.
Months later, Cliff and Sally are still living together and have fallen in love. Cliff knows that he is in a "dream," but he enjoys living with Sally too much to come to his senses ("Why Should I Wake Up?"). Sally reveals that she is pregnant, but she does not know the father and reluctantly decides to get an abortion. Cliff reminds her that it could be his child, and convinces her to have the baby. Ernst then enters and offers Cliff a job—picking up a suitcase in Paris and delivering it to his "client" in Berlin—easy money. The Emcee and the cabaret girls comment on this ("Sitting Pretty" or, in later versions, "Money").
Meanwhile, Fräulein Schneider has caught one of her boarders, Fräulein Kost, bringing sailors into her room. Fräulein Schneider forbids her from doing it again, but Fräulein Kost threatens to leave. She also mentions that she has seen Fräulein Schneider with Herr Schultz in her room. Herr Schultz saves Fräulein Schneider's reputation by telling Fräulein Kost that he and Fräulein Schneider are to be married in three weeks. After Kost leaves, Fräulein Schneider thanks Herr Schultz for lying to Kost. Herr Schultz, however, says that he was serious, and proposes to Fräulein Schneider ("Married").
At Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz's engagement party, Cliff arrives and delivers the suitcase to Ernst. A "tipsy" Herr Schultz sings "Meeskite" (Meeskite, he explains, is Yiddish for ugly or funny-looking) a song with a moral ("Anyone responsible for loveliness, large or small/Is not a meeskite at all"). Afterward, looking for revenge on Fräulein Schneider, Fräulein Kost tells Ernst, who now sports a Nazi armband, that Herr Schultz is a Jew. Ernst warns Fräulein Schneider that marrying a Jew may not be wise. Fräulein Kost and everyone reprise "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", this time with more overt and disturbing Nazi overtones, as Cliff, Sally, Fräulein Schneider, Herr Schultz and the Emcee look on.
The cabaret girls, along with the Emcee in drag, perform a kick line routine which eventually becomes a goose-step. Fräulein Schneider expresses her concerns about her union to Herr Schultz, who assures her that everything will be all right ("Married" reprise), but they are interrupted by the crash of a brick being thrown through the window of Herr Schultz's fruit shop. Fräulein Schneider is afraid that the gesture might represent malicious intent, but Schultz tries to reassure her that it is just children making trouble.
Back at the Kit Kat Klub, the Emcee performs a song-and-dance routine with a girl in a gorilla suit about how their love has been met with universal disapproval ("If You Could See Her"). Encouraging the audience to be more open-minded, he defends his ape-woman, concluding with, "if you could see her through my eyes... she wouldn't look Jewish at all." Fräulein Schneider then goes to Cliff and Sally's room and returns their engagement present, explaining that her marriage has been called off. When Cliff protests, saying that she can't just give up this way, she asks him what other choice she has ("What Would You Do?").
Cliff tells Sally that he is taking her back to his home in America so that they can raise their baby together. Sally protests, declaring how wonderful their life in Berlin is, and Cliff sharply tells her to "wake up" and take notice of the growing unrest around them; Sally retorts that politics have nothing to do with them or their affairs. Following their heated argument, Sally returns to the club. Cliff is accosted by Ernst who has another delivery job for him. Cliff tries to brush him off, but when Ernst asks if Cliff's attitude towards him is because of "that Jew at the party", Cliff attacks him - only to be badly beaten up by Ernst and his Nazi bodyguards and dragged out of the club. The Emcee introduces Sally, who enters to perform again, singing that "at the cabaret... life is a holiday" ("Cabaret"). As Sally finishes the song, she breaks down in tears.
The next morning, the bruised Cliff is packing, when he is visited by Herr Schultz, who tells him that he is moving to another boardinghouse, but he is confident that the bad times will soon pass. He understands the German people, he says, because he is a German too. When Sally returns, she reveals that she has had an abortion; Cliff slaps her. Cliff still hopes that she will join him, but Sally says that she's "always hated Paris" and hopes that when Cliff finally writes his novel, he will dedicate it to her. Cliff leaves, heartbroken.
On the train to Paris, Cliff begins to write his novel, reflecting on his experiences: "There was a cabaret, and there was a master of ceremonies... and there was a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany...and it was the end of the world." ("Willkommen" reprise). In the Kit Kat Klub, the Emcee is dressed in Nazi regalia (in the 1998 revival, he strips off his overcoat to reveal a concentration camp prisoner's uniform marked with a yellow Star of David and a pink triangle). The cabaret ensemble reprises "Willkommen", but it is now harsh and violent as the Emcee sings, "Auf Wiedersehen... à bientôt".
Of the prologue of songs originally planned, only "Willkommen" remained. One of the dropped numbers, "I Don't Care Much," was eventually restored to the 1998 production. "Roommates" was replaced by "Perfectly Marvelous," but largely serves the same purpose, for Sally to convince Cliff to let her move in with him. "Good Time Charlie" was to be sung by Sally to Cliff while they are on their way to Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz's engagement party, with Sally mocking the overly dour and pessimistic Cliff with the lines "You're such a Good Time Charlie/What'll we do with you?/You're such a Good Time Charlie/frolicking all the time..."). "It'll All Blow Over" was planned for the end of the first act: Fräulein Schneider is concerned that marrying a Jew might not be wise, and Cliff is concerned about the city's growing Nazism. In the song, Sally tells them both that they have nothing to worry about and that all will turn out well in the end. She eventually convinces Cliff and Fräulein Schneider to sing the song with her. (Both this song and "Roommates" are occasionally underscored by the ostinato rhythm of the piece.) These three deleted songs were recorded by Kander and Ebb, and the sheet music for the songs was included in The Complete Cabaret Collection, a book of vocal selections from the musical.
The songs "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time," written for the 1972 film, were included in the 1998 revival. In this revival, "Mein Herr" would replace "The Telephone Song", which already had a small appearance before "Don't Tell Mama." "Maybe This Time" was included in the place of "Why Should I Wake Up?", and was sung by Sally in her own personal reflection. Previously, in the 1987 revival, a new song was written for Cliff entitled "Don't Go".
In addition, there were two "Money" songs. Originally, the song "Sitting Pretty" was sung by the Emcee and backed up by the Cabaret girls in international costumes and their units of currency (representing Russian rubles, Japanese yen, French francs, American dollars, and German Deutschmarks). For the movie, this number was then replaced by "Money, Money", and sung by the Emcee and Sally Bowles. However, "Sitting Pretty" was still heard briefly in the film. For the 1987 revival, there was a special version comprising a medley of both money songs, and motifs from the later song were incorporated into the "international" dance which had "Sitting Pretty". For the 1998 revival, only the later song written for the movie was used. This version added the Cabaret Girls, and had a darker and raunchier edge to it.
The first recording of Cabaret was the original cast album, with some of the songs (especially "Sitting Pretty"/"The Money Song") heavily edited to save disk space, and others (especially "Telephone Song") taken at a faster tempo. When this album was released on compact disc, Kander and Ebb's voice-and-piano recording of songs cut from the musical was added as bonus material.
The 1972 movie soundtrack with Liza Minnelli is perhaps the best-known of the recordings, although the movie is much re-written and eliminates all but six of the original songs from the stage production.
The original London cast recording (1968) was released in the UK and reissued on the CBS Embassy label in 1973. Both the 1986 London and 1998 Broadway revival casts were recorded.
A 1999 two-CD studio recording contains more or less the entire score, including songs written for the movie or for later productions, and many incidentals and instrumentals not usually recorded. This recording features Jonathan Pryce as the Emcee, Maria Friedman as Sally, Gregg Edelman as Cliff, Judi Dench as Fräulein Schneider, and Fred Ebb as Herr Schultz.
The most recent recording of cabaret is the soundtrack of the 2006/2007 london revival at the Lyric Theatre. The recording includes James Dreyfus as emcee and Anna Maxwell Martin as Sally Bowles
In addition to these recordings, cast albums for the French, Spanish, Greek, Israeli, Italian, Austrian, Dutch, and two German productions have been released.