Eyes wide open at 'Cabaret'

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
Aug. 22, 2012 at 3:22 a.m.

The Berlin of the 1930s was the breeding ground for Hitler's rise to power, but it was also a world intent on nothing so much as having a fine time.

The world of "Cabaret" is set smack in the middle of that wild party that was the Weimar Republic of Germany.

There at the Kit Kat Klub in 1931 Berlin, 19-year-old Brit Sally Bowles is intent on singing, dancing, partying and having a good time. It's a world of "divine decadence" and Sally is living it up, blithely oblivious to the rise of Nazism that will soon blow this colorful world to pieces. Even as she sings and dances in the club, the Nazi movement is gaining strength and power.

"Cabaret" premiered on Broadway in 1966. Kander and Ebb, the guys who also wrote "Chicago," based the show off of a novel by author Christopher Isherwood. If you've ever seen the 1972 film starring Liza Minnelli, it captured the feel but doesn't bare much resemblance to the original story. The stage version is an entirely different experience, and one I highly recommend checking out.

In years between World War I and World War II, Germany had a growing Nazi movement, but Berlin was also a haven for artists and musicians and unusual people of all varieties. It was a wild time, filled with drinking, drugs and sexual experimentation, a period of wild liberation that came to an abrupt end when Hitler took full control of the country and began his process of eliminating "undesirables" from the world.

In the stage version, Sally meets Cliff Bradshaw, a bisexual American writer who has come to Berlin looking for inspiration for his next novel.

He finds it in Sally and the Kit Kat Klub. The pair fall in love while around them things in Germany begin to take a darker turn. Sally shuts her eyes to the truth, but Cliff cannot and finally leaves Berlin and Sally.

Brokenhearted, he starts his novel: "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."

It's a heart wrenching story, set to music that you can't help but enjoy with songs like "Maybe This Time," "Mein Herr," "Cabaret."

I know it sounds daunting and dark, but "Cabaret" has a point that is all too relevant today. Whether you're living it up in a world like the Kit Kat Klub or hiding at home, the problems of the world will find their way to your doorstep.

May as well step up and look them in the face. Not looking at them will cost us, both personally and as a society, more than we can ever manage to pay off.



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