Directed by Sam Mendes
Roundabout Theatre Company, New York City
IF YOU ONLY KNOW the musical Cabaret from the iconic Bob Fosse film starring Liza Minnelli and Michael York, then you know a version of the Christopher Isherwood “Sally Bowles” story that is no more or less true to its literary source than is the 1966 Broadway musical. In the original story, a rather callow young Englishman comes to Berlin on the eve of the Nazis’ ascension, meets an eccentric girl who sings at a seedy nightclub, moves in with her, and over time discovers the political and moral rottenness of the up-and-coming Nazi Party.
First presented on the New York stage by legendary director and producer Hal Prince with a book by Joe Masteroff and music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the brilliant conceit of that production was to locate the story inside a Berlin Cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub, a name that appeared no-where in Isherwood’s story but one that conveyed the raffishness of Berlin night life in the waning days of the Weimar Republic. Outside the Cabaret’s doors, Nazis might be screaming invective at Jews or stomping on their Communist enemies, but inside the Klub, “life is beautiful!”