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HEY THERE, BROADWAY FANS!! We are only 38 DAYS AWAY from celebrating The Great Bright Way’s return with Broadway’s Biggest Night of the Year….. The 74th Annual Tony Awards. We got more of your favorite Broadway showstopping performances from previous telecasts coming your way on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. Are you ready for more?!!!
At # 38 today on our countdown, we take a trip to an iconic nightclub in 1930’s Berlin (led by an authentic flamboyant Master of Ceremonies) with the only thing that you do is LEAVE YOUR TROUBLES OUTSIDE. Not only do you experience the acts in this club, we discover the stories of some of its patrons including the club’s headlining star attraction and her romance to an American writer. You also see a doomed-romance between a German Boarding house owner and her Jewish fruit vendoring elderly suitor. All of this is happening during World War II at the time of the Nazis’ rise to power. We are talking about the legendary Cabaret. Based on Christopher Isherwood‘s 1939 short novel GOODBYE TO BERLIN) and John Van Druten’s 1951 play I AM A CAMERA, the musical features a score by John Kander & Fred Ebb along with a book by Joe Masteroff.
From the 1967 telecast, the iconic Joel Grey in his legendary Tony and Oscar winning performance as “The Emcee” performs a medley of the show’s signature opening number WILLKOMMEN.
CABARET was initially first conceived in the 1950’s. Originally the musical was technically supposed to be a straight play with music. Composer and book writer Sandy Lewis was already working on a musical adaptation of the novel GOODBYE TO BERLIN. One day, he discovered that producer David Black’s option on both GOODBYE TO BERLIN and its source material from the original novel I AM A CAMERA was invalid and was bought by acclaimed director and fellow producer Hal Prince. With Joe Masteroff on board to work on the book, they both agreed that Wilson’s score failed to capture the essence of late-1920s Berlin. They fired Wilson and got John Kander and Fred Ebb on board. In addition came choreographer Bob Fosse. While going through the writing of music for the play, Kander and Ebb realized that the score would actually fit better as a book musical. New dialogue and characters were written and initial music that was being written for the play were cut now incorporating songs that would fit the plot. In addition, the top of the show began very differently than a traditional musical people knew today. Instead of an Overture, the show now famously begins with a drumroll.
Following a tough out of town tryout in Boston, CABARET officially arrived on Broadway in 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre (and later transferred twice to the Imperial and the Broadway Theatre) where it played a total of 1,186 performances. Under the direction of Hal Prince and choreographed by Bob Fosse, the show starred…
Joel Grey (and later Martin Ross) as “The Emcee”,
Jill Haworth (and later Anita Gillette and Melissa Hart) as the iconic TOAST OF MAYFAIR herself “Fraulein Sally Bowles”,
Bert Convy as “Clifford Bradshaw”,
Lotte Lenya as “Fraulein Schneider”,
Jack Gilford as “Herr Shultz”
and
Peg Murray (later Mara Landi and Rhonda Gemignani) as “Fraulein Kost”.
The original production was nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 1967 winning 8 including BEST MUSICAL and BEST PERFORMING BY A LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL (for Joel Grey).
Following the success of the original production on Broadway, CABARET went on to become a huge smash in London’s West End and around the world. The show would later be revived three times on Broadway.
The first Broadway revival happened in 1987 where Hal Prince recreated his original staging back on the Great White Way. In addition, some of the dialogue and new songs were included for this engagement. It played Broadway’s Imperial Theatre (and later transferred to the Minskoff Theatre) for 261 performances. This remounting of Prince and Fosse’s original staging starred…
Joel Grey reprising the role of “The Emcee”,
Alyson Reed (later Mary Munger) as “Fraulein Sally Bowles”,
Greg Edelman as “Clifford Bradshaw”,
Regina Resnik (Iater Peg Murray as “Fraulein Schneider”,
Werner Klemperer as “Herr Shultz”,
and
Laura Mae Lyng as “Fraulein Kost”,
That first Broadway revival was nominated for 3 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical. It lost all the categories.
Later in 1998, a new production of CABARET (that originally came from London’s Donmar Warehouse in 1993) was produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company playing Broadway’s Henry Miller Theatre (now the Stephen Sondheim Theatre). 6 months into the run, a construction hoist collapsed which blocked access to the Theater. To keep the show going, Roundabout moved the production reopening (and making history as the first Broadway show produced) at Studio 54 for the remainder of its run. Under the direction of Sam Mendes and choreography by Rob Marshall, this 1998 revival ran for a complete total of 2,377 performances. This production was well known for its intimate staging turning the entire auditorium into a real-life working KIT KAT CLUB in Berlin (featuring table seating). In addition, this production featured the cast doubling up as the orchestra. The cast starred…
The late Natasha Richardson (later Jennifer Jason Leigh, Susan Egan, Joely Fisher, Gina Gershon, Debbie Gibson, Katie Finneran, Teri Hatcher, Melina Kanakaredes, Jane Leeves, Molly Ringwald, Brooke Shields, and Lea Thompson) as “Fraulein Sally Bowles”
John Benjamin Hickey (later Rick Holmes, Matthew Greer, Michael Hayden, and Boyd Gaines) as “Clifford Bradshaw”,
Mary Louise Wilson (later Alma Cuervo, Polly Bergen, Carole Shelley, and Blair Brown) as “Fraulein Schneider”,
Ron Rifkin (later Scott Robertson, Tom Bosley, Hal Linden, and Dick Latessa) as “Herr Schultz”,
and
Michelle Pawk (later Candy Buckley and Victoria Clark) as “Fraulein Kost”.
That revival was nominated for 10 Tony Awards that same year in 1998 winning 4 including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL and BEST PERFORMING BY A LEADING ACTOR & ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson).
Most recently in 2014, Roundabout brought back that acclaimed 1998 revival of CABARET (as seen in this video) for a limited engagement at Studio 54 that ran for 423 performances. The remounting of Mendes and Marshall’s acclaimed revival was led by…
Alan Cumming reprising the role of “The Emcee”,
Golden Globe-winner Michelle Williams (later Emma Stone. and Sienna Miller) as “Fraulein Sally Bowles”,
Linda Emond as “Fraulein Schneider”,
Tony nominee Danny Burnstein as “Herr Schultz”,
Bill Heck as “Clifford Bradshaw”,
and
Gayle Rankin (later Hani Furstenberg) as “Fraulein Kost”.
This revival was nominated for 2 Tony Awards for BEST FEATURED ACTOR & ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Danny Burstein and Linda Emond), but lost in all of its categories.
Not only did CABARET do well on stage but it was also a huge smash on the big screen. The legendary film was released in 1972. The film was well known for incorporating some of the new songs that would now be used in all the stage productions including MEIN HERR, MAYBE THIS TIME and THE MONEY SONG. The film was also met with a little controversy due to its themes of corruption, sexual ambiguity, false dreams and Nazism. In addition, one of the scenes in the film TOMORROW BELONGS TO ME caused confusion to audiences, thinking it was an anthem of the Nazis. All of this caused a whole lot of backlash to composers Kander & Ebb getting accused of anti-Semitism. Under the direction and choreography by Bob Fosse, the cast starred…
Joel Grey reprising his Broadway performance of “The Emcee”,
Liza Minnelli as “Fraulein Sally Bowles”,
Michael York as “Brian Roberts” (formerly “Clifford Bradshaw”),
Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel as “Fräulein Schneider”,
and
Helen Vita as Fräulein Kost.
The film went on to be nominated for 10 Oscars that same year, winning 8 including Best Actress in a Leading Role (for Liza Minnelli) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (for Joel Grey). Joel Grey made history as one of the few actors ever to win the Oscar, the Golden Globe, and the Tony for the same role.
CABARET today continues to be performed in schools, community, and regional theaters everywhere.
Doesn’t this show remind you that every day LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL?!!
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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