How many times can you see Cabaret and still enjoy it? DBH and I still trying to find that out. Whether the movie version, or live, it is one of the great musicals of the 20th century. Last Sunday we fell in love all over again with the Chicago Light Opera Works production, starring their Artistic Director, Rudy Hogamiller as the Emcee. He was more than significantly malicious and a great singer and dancer. Rudy danced in the chorus of Cabaret on Broadway. The version of the show we saw was the original, with the secondary romance built around the older owner of the boarding house, Fraulein Schneider and the Jewish fruit shop owner, Herr Schultz.
I don't mean to slight Jenny Lamb who was a great Sally Bowles. And, without seeming like a fashionista, we wore the magnificent costumes designed by Jesus Perez with aplomb. Lots of mid 30's style flowing chiffon and bias cut dresses.
Manys the night we reach into our video collection (yes we keep a video player because we have so many) and pull out Cabaret with Joel Gray and Lisa Minnelli. It never grows old. Who could forget the gorgeous Marisa Berenson as Natalia Landauer and Michael York as Brian Roberts. In the movie, the secondary romance is changed to a German/Jewish conflict featuring a young couple, Natalia and Fritz Wandel, which is resolved with Fritz discovers he is Jewish - and they flee Germany together with her Daddy's millions. They are so beautiful to watch, but the romance of the older couple, which ends with them separating, is much more poignant and true to the Jewish/Nazi strife.
Where the movie triumphs over the stage is the rendering of Nazi anthem, Tomorrow Belongs to Me. In the CLOW version we saw, the song is first introduced by waiters at the Kit Kat Club. Then at the end of the first act, it is reprised with all the singers and dancers at the engagement party of Frau Kost and Herr Schultz, turning a happy time into tragedy. In the movie, a very blonde Hitler Youth member stands in bier garten and sings the anthem in a clear boy tenor voice, solo at first, but then with all the customers joining and tilting the emotional movement towards the coming tragedy, both for Sally and Brian and for Germany.
While enjoying Cabaret, thoughts flooded over me of how the current situation in Egypt is reflective of German history. How could the Egyptians elect ultra-conservative Muslims who then elected a member of the Muslim Brotherhood as president, and not expect that they would attempt to establish Sharia law? And how could they expect that people who give not a whit for the trials and tribulations of anyone except their conservative Muslim allies is going to pull Egypt out of its economic downward spiral? The fall-off in tourism alone has a domino effect throughout their fragile economy. And the Copts? It won't be long before this prosperous segment of the population has fled the country entirely, if they can get out. Like the Jews, they are a handy whipping-boy for whatever ails the Muslims. I've advocated before that the US should just open its borders to all Christians in the Middle East. They surely pass the persecution criteria we set for political asylum.
So, the next time you want to see a great movie/play about the decline and fall of a country while the citizens dance and sing it up, see Cabaret. You will leave the theater full of music and thoughtful sadness.