Cabaret

PG 13 (Adult Themes, Mild Violence, Sexuality) 

TW: Physical Violence, Abuse, Drug Use, Drinking, Anti-Semitic Views and Themes, Abortion)

Cabaret takes place from 1929-1930, a time when Berlin, in the midst of a post-World War I economic depression, is transitioning from a center of underground, avant-garde cultural epicenter to the beginnings of Hitler’s totalitarian regime and the rise of the Nazi Party. Into this world enters Clifford Bradshaw, a struggling American writer looking for inspiration for his next novel. On his first night in Berlin, Cliff wanders into the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy nightclub overseen by the strange, omniscient and gender-bending Master of Ceremonies, “the Emcee.” Here, Cliff meets Sally Bowles, a vivacious, talented cabaret performer, and an utterly lost soul. Sally and Cliff begin a relationship, which blossoms unexpectedly into a dream-like romance. As time passes, however, the situation in Berlin changes from exciting and vital to ominous and violent; Ernst, Cliff’s first German friend, turns out to be an up-and-coming member of the Nazi Party, and Herr Schultz, a fellow boarder at Fraulein Schneider’s guest house (and Schneider’s fiancee), is the victim of an Anti-Semitic hate crime. When he finds out that Sally is pregnant, Cliff decides that they must leave for America at once, before things get any worse. Sally, afraid, confused, and unsure that she’ll ever really be able to trade the sexy, illicit cabaret lifestyle for motherhood, gets an abortion, and tells Cliff that he must leave without her. With a distinctly Brechtian dose of provocation and a score featuring songs that have become classics of the American Musical Theater, Cabaret is a fierce, meaty musical that pushes the boundaries of the form and literally holds “the mirror up to nature.”


Dramaturgical Note

“1918. ‘The War to End All Wars’ was over. The Allied Powers (including France, England, and the United States) emerged victorious and, under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was charged severe reparations to several European nations. Sparked by a sailors’ revolt at the end of the war, the socialist- inspired November Revolution replaced the German monarchy with a progressive democracy centered in Weimar. This new Weimar Republic, struggling to rebuild and pay the reparations from WWI, took the economy off the gold standard. While this granted some short-term benefits, in the ensuing years in action climbed at a staggering rate. From 1918 to 1925, the value of one German mark fell to one trillionth of its 1918 worth in gold. Paper currency effectively became meaningless. It was not uncommon to see banknotes littering the street, glued to walls as a cheap wallpaper substitute, or stacked and used as blocks for children to play with. Saving money became impossible, or at least illogical, as its value fell so quickly. In 1925, the United States, its economy booming, began to loan Germany money to help the government meet its payments. However, following the American stock market crash of 1929, Germany once again faced economic uncertainty. Seeking to find what little pleasure they could to escape a gritty world of drudgery and poverty, many Germans, especially those in urban Berlin, were drawn to the emerging art scene. A postwar boom in artistic expression brought forth experimental new forms in the world of visual art, film, and performance. Cabarets were particularly popular, offering satirical musical numbers, elaborately choreographed dancing, and often scandalously dressed performers. Along with this economic hardship and club culture came heavy alcohol and drug abuse. As such, a culture of excess grew out of this world of so little. After the war, women took to the public workforce more than ever before, having become accustomed to holding many professional positions while men were away at the fronts. In many cases, women would retain these positions after the war, taking over businesses from husbands or fathers who had lost their lives. Further, as a result of the more liberal regime of the new government, Berlin in the Weimar period became known for a relative openness in terms of sexuality and gender expression, despite the continued presence of more conservative, traditional elements in the population. A result of this uncertainty in the face of dramatic socioeconomic change, the political spectrum became increasingly bifurcated. The growing communist movement campaigned for Marxism, which was taking hold elsewhere in Europe. At the same time, the fascist National Socialists (or Nazis) grew popular through highly patriotic rhetoric that promised an end to the shame following WWI and suggested an easy scapegoat for the nation’s problems. The Nazis’ narrow victory in the Reichstag election of 1933 and Hitler’s subsequent appointment as Chancellor marked the political tipping point, cementing the trajectory of Germany – and indeed the world – for decades to come…”

– Cole Remmen, UCSB 2018