Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Cabaret

Image found here
I saw the movie Cabaret for the first time this year during the Washington Jewish Film Festival, so when I found out that the musical was coming to the Kennedy Center, I immediately asked my friend (who watched the film with me) if she wanted to see the show live. We both thought it would be really fun to compare the movie to the live performance.

Image found here
The set was simple but very effective. There were two levels, and the orchestra was seated upstairs, so you could actually see them. What was neat was that they were all in costume! It was like they were part of the Kit Kat Club. At one point many of the musicians fit themselves in the frame (like in the picture above) and performed music from the different songs, which was so cool! I think that might have been my favorite part of the show. You never see the orchestra highlighted like that!

Jon Peterson, who played the Emcee/Master of Ceremonies, was not quite as creepy as the film's Joel Grey, but he was just as silly, and sometimes his French accent sounded just like Grey's. Peterson even did some audience participation, bringing people on stage and making lurid jokes, so that was very funny.

And the music and dancing of the Roundabout Theatre Company were great! I think some songs were added for the musical, but several were the same from the movie:


Mein Herr

If You Could See Her

Sally's a blonde, BLANK is quite masculine, and the lady landlord is a main character. What? Image found here.
There were some bits that threw me off, though. Leigh Ann Larkin, who played Sally Bowles, was a blonde; Liza Minnelli's dark widow's peak haircut is so iconic, so I'm not sure why the play strayed from that. The musical also focused a lot more on the landlord, her love life, and the prostitute neighbor, which I don't remember as a big part of the film at all. And there was a song about a pineapple...
Those aren't two ladies... Image found here.
Also, during the song "Two Ladies," one of the ladies was a man! While it was very funny, that choice in casting doesn't really make sense with the title of the song (clearly). See below for the original from the movie:

 Another song that was different was that Sally did not perform the song "Money" like in the film:

I was very surprised that there was no love triangle in the musical. I thought that was such a big part in the movie, but it was completely left out of this show. We find out that Clifford Bradshaw (Brian Roberts in the film; this time played by Benjamin Eakeley, who is much more masculine than the film's Michael York) has homosexual tendencies way earlier than we do in the film, but we only hear about what he's done in the past. He doesn't seem to act on those feelings during the play itself. Another difference was that in the live show, Sally insists on moving in with Clifford, whereas in the movie, she seems like a pretty independent woman, and he actually spends more time at her place.

The second act of the play was very dark. It focused on the World War II theme, which was an undercurrent in the film, but not a main focus. Clifford wants to get away from the anti-Semitic feelings in Berlin and insists that he and Sally move to the U.S., even though he hasn't even asked her what she wants. She says she wants to go back to work at the Kit Kat Club, which he is completely against; she goes back anyway, and performs the song "Cabaret" with her mascara streaming from crying, which is very different from the positive energy from the movie:

The play ends with the Emcee dressed like a Holocaust victim, acting as if he's been shot multiple times before falling to the ground. Talk about morbid! I understand the importance of including these messages in the play, but it was kind of a let-down to end such a fun evening on a dark note...

In writing this blog post, I did some research and saw that both the play and movie are based on the book Cabaret by Christopher Isherwood; it's somewhat autobiographical, because Isherwood did spend time in Berlin and admitted to exploring its "sexual underworld." Then the first Broadway production came out in 1966, and the film was released in 1972. Now I need to read the book to see which one is most like the original story!

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