I received a pair of tickets to CABARET to facilitate this review. However, all opinions are my own
CABARET is one of my all-time favorite musicals, definitely in my top five, so when I was given the opportunity to see it here in Seattle I jumped at the chance!
The story takes places in 1930’s Berlin, in and around a scandalous and decadent nightclub, The Kit Kat Klub. Our M.C. opens the show and welcomes (Willkommen) the audience to the Kit Kat Klub and introduces the workers.
A young American novelist, Cliff Bradshaw, meet Ernst Ludwig on the train to Berlin, Ernst offers to become his English pupil and suggests an affordable boarding house for Cliff to look up in Berlin. After arriving at the boarding house, we meet Fraulein Schneider, the owner. She offers Cliff a room and asks for 100 Marks, however, Cliff can only afford 50. After some consideration (So What?) Fraulein Schneider relents, and they agree to 50 Marks.
Later that evening Cliff decided to meet Ernst at the Kit Kat Klub. After watching the show, Cliff is approached by the theater’s headliner, Sally Bowles. Sally is a British expat and immediately adores the fact that Cliff also speaks English. Sally has been living above the Kit Kat Klub with the club’s owner, but after a row with him the is unceremoniously kicked out of her flat and loses her job at the club. She comes to Cliff and begs for a place to stay (Perfectly Marvelous), if even for a few days. After Cliff’s initial hesitation he decides to let Sally stay.
Fraulein Schneider, a widow, has a new potential beau, Herr Schultz, the owner of “the best fruit stand in Berlin.” Herr Schultz brings her a gift, but she can’t guess what it is. When Fraulein Schneider opens the package, she is overcome to find a pineapple (It Couldn’t Please Me More – the Pineapple Song), all the way from California. Soon after, the couple decided to get engaged.
Despite Sally’s drinking, things are going alright with her new living arrangement (Maybe This Time), but she and Cliff are low on funds. Cliff is offered a no-questions-asked job from Ernst ferrying a briefcase from Paris to Berlin, at a pay of 75 Marks, Cliff doesn’t refuse (Money).
At Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz engagement party, it is revealed that Ernst is a member of the Nazi Party. Cliff refuses to do any more jobs for Ernst, and Ernst angrily tries to leave the party. Ernst also learns that Herr Schultz is Jewish. Fraulein Kost, one of Fraulein Schneider’s tenants, begs him to stay and starts singing a Nazi Party song (Tomorrow Belongs to Me), which eventually most of the guests at the party join in singing. This sets up a quick and emotional second act. I’ll leave the end and the reveals of the second act for your discovery.
CABARET is set during the advent of Nazism in Germany, and Hitler’s rise to power. One of the things I love most about this show is how it shows the decadent interwar period which eventually gives way to the totalitarian regime of the Nazis. The scary part is how you don’t even notice anything amiss to start, and how quickly everything spirals out of control. I think the shows helps illuminate an important lesson in history and helps people today recognize that indifference and complacency can lead to the elimination of an entire group of people and the untold suffering of millions.
The cast does an excellent job in every part, particularly Leigh Ann Larkin who plays Sally Bowles. She has an erratic energy that really helps to show the manic moods of Sally. Additionally, the Emcee is played by Jon Peterson with tons of energy to start, but as he begins to get squeezed by the Nazis, you see his facade breaking, revealing his sad clown inside. He is a tragic character, and you hate seeing him get ground down day after day.
I can’t stress enough that little children should not be at this show. In fact, even less mature teens may have a hard time dealing with what they’re seeing. The show deals with Nazism, racism, antisemitism, sex workers, homosexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, and contains profanity and scantily clad men and women. However, I think it’s a very important show, so if you know your teen can handle these subjects and you’re willing to talk about the themes with them, I think this is a great learning tool, as well as an entertaining and provocative production.
See CABARET if you like musicals, or even if you just want to see a pivotal period in time brought to life in front of you.
CABARET is playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, June 13th-25th!
CABARET is playing at SEATTLE’S PARAMOUNT THEATRE June 13th to 25th (no Mondays), including matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. During the second week of performances (June 20-25) audiences will enjoy an immersive Kit Kat Klub cabaret-style table seating in the front of the orchestra level, reminiscent of the Broadway run at Studio 54 in New York.