Cabaret

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Cabaretp 8130.jpg

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
Fremde, etranger, stranger.
Gluklich zu sehen, je suis enchante,
Happy to see you, bleibe, reste, stay.
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome,
Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret!

The Emcee

Cabaret is a stage musical based on a set of short stories by Christopher Isherwood (collected in Goodbye To Berlin), which in turn were based on real events and people. It also drew enormous influence from I Am A Camera (1951), a straight play based on Goodbye to Berlin. Cabaret itself was adapted into a film of the same name in 1972. No two versions of this story are the same, all starring wildly different characters, or different versions of the same characters, and following different events. Hell, even the musical itself differs somewhat in content based on what revision you're talking about.

With a sinister but attractive glint in his eye, the Emcee invites us into the decadent provocative world of the cabaret. It's 1929. Sally Bowles, a middle-class lass from Chelsea, London, is working as a singer at Berlin's Kit Kat Klub in order to live the thrilling life the city is supposed to offer. In enters Cliff Bradshaw, a young American writer who comes to Berlin seeking inspiration for his novel, and Sally soon determinedly moves to join him in his room in the boarding house run by Fraulein Schneider (played by Miss Lotte Lenya in the original cast). Their fellow lodgers include the cheerful yet promiscuous working girl, Fraulein Kost, and the gentle, aging Herr Schultz.

As the Nazi clouds gather, Sally, now with child, is still determined to show the world what a good time she is having. Defiant and brave, she either cannot or will not hear the threatening noises around her, yet the others can.

Schultz courts Fraulein Schneider with old-world courtesy and they become engaged. However, he is Jewish; when Nazi sympathizer Ernst Ludwig breaks up their engagement party, the weary landlady is obliged to let her dreams of marriage go.

Cliff finds he has been almost unwittingly smuggling Nazi funds for Ernst, and is beaten up when he refuses to continue the dangerous work. It's time to leave Berlin, but poor self-obsessed Sally can't let the party end. Back in the Kit Kat Klub, the Emcee introduces an ongoing pageant of delusional depravity, a commentary on the "mask of normalcy" people are wearing during the Nazi occupation.

The movie was directed by Bob Fosse and won eight Academy Awards, including for Fosse's direction, Liza Minelli's performance as Sally and Joel Grey's as the Emcee. It is particularly notable for dominating the awards in the year of The Godfather, though the latter's comparatively few awards (three) still included Best Picture.

Tropes used in Cabaret include:
  • Affably Evil: Ernst seems to be a very cordial person, offering Cliff work and recommending a boarding house... up until the audience sees the swastika armband.
  • Beta Couple: Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider
  • Bi the Way: Cliff, in any version more recent than the original (Bowdlerised) production script.
  • Black Market Produce: There's a musical number that is based on a gift of a pineapple.
  • Bottle Fairy: Sally Bowles. Her drinking increases as the play goes on.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "If You Could See Her"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In many productions, the Emcee will interact with those in the front-row seats.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Depending on what version you're watching; some stage productions have "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" sung by Hitler Youth boys, as in the movie. Others have the reprise sung by Nazis, but the original sung by a young, gay Cabaret boy, often a racial minority.
  • Cut Song: The straightest version is "I Don't Care Much" which was cut from the original production and added back later, but every version is missing at least a couple of songs present in other versions.
  • Dark Reprise: "Wilkommen" gets one in the finale.
  • Discussed Trope: "If this was a movie, you know what would happen?"
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: See Misaimed Fandom in the YMMV tab, but even if you're not a neo-Nazi, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" is sung and filmed in such a way as to be quite stirring, especially when everyone in the park joins in.
  • Downer Ending: Germany slides into Nazi tyranny and Sally will quite likely suffer the consequences.
  • Dramatic Irony: Also historical irony. In possibly the only use of It Will Never Catch On for Tear Jerker effect, Herr Schultz's prediction that the rise of the Nazis will pass soon enough. Particularly tragic since he is Jewish.
  • Epic Song: The reprise of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me"
  • The Everyman: Played mostly straight with Cliff.
  • Fan Service: The Stripperiffic outfits for the Kit Kat Klub Girls and Boys. Justified in that it is a cabaret.
  • Fundamentally Funny Fruit: During the song "It Couldn't Please Me More", the Jewish grocer, Herr Schultz, presents Fraulein Schneider with a pineapple, which would be rationed in this time period and therefore a very valuable gift.
  • Gratuitous German, followed by Gratuitous French, followed by Gratuitous English: Many of the phrases in the opening number "Willkommen" are sung in manner.

Emcee: Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Fremde! Etranger! Stranger!
Gluklich zu sehen! Je suis enchante! Happy to see you!
Bleibe! Reste! Stay!
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Im Cabaret! Au Cabaret! To Cabaret!

  • Greek Chorus: The Emcee, though for the most part his songs are only tied in thematically, and don't directly comment on the action.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Sally Bowles, on the other hand, doesn't.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Prairie Oysters, which involves raw eggs and Worcestershire sauce beaten together. Drink it from the toothpaste glass and it tastes just like peppermint!
    • Actually, this should be a prairie oyster (singular), which is a common hangover drink. (BTW, a prairie oyster also contains Tabasco sauce, salt and black pepper. And you don't beat the egg. That way it keeps its oyster-like consistency.) Prairie oysters (plural) refers to the boiled testicles of various animals found roaming the Great Plains of North America during the 19th century -- bison, cattle, sheep, etc.
  • "I Am" Song: "So What" for Fraulein Schneider.
  • Interactive Narrator: Played with in the Emcee.
  • Ironic Echo: All over the place in the last few scenes, which collectively comprise a darker mirror image of the first few scenes.
  • It Got Worse: With the rise of the Nazis, the story ends on this note.
  • "I Want" Song: "Maybe This Time".
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Sally Bowles is either a deconstruction or a subversion of this trope.
  • Money Song: "Sitting Pretty/The Money Song"
  • Most Writers Are Writers
  • Movie Bonus Song / Ret Canon: "Mein Herr", "Maybe this Time" and "Money Money".
  • Musicalis Interruptus: In the scene where Fraulein Schneider considers ending her engagement with Herr Schultz and he attempts to reassure her, there is a moment when he seems to be succeeding and they start a reprise of the song they sang when he proposed -- which is interrupted after a few lines by somebody throwing a brick through Herr Schultz's window, ending the song and the engagement.
  • The Musical Musical
  • Opening Chorus: "Wilkommen" featuring the Emcee and the Cabaret Performers.
  • Sidekick Song: Though Herr Schultz isn't exactly a sidekick, "Meeskite" has a lot in common with other Sidekick Songs.
  • Villain Song: "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" for the Nazis.
  • Weimar Republic
  • Wham! Line: "But if you could see her through my eyes... She wouldn't look Jewish at all."
  • Window Pain: A Nazi throws a brick through Herr Schultz's shop.

The film provides examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: More of a vocal example; in the original Christopher Isherwood stories, Sally has an unremarkable, even squawky voice. Of course, that doesn't work so well for the main character of a musical...
    • In the revival, Natasha Richardson played her with a suitable voice, but with added tired inflections that managed to fit both ways.
      • Subverted in the film's famous dance scene with Sally and the bentwood chair. Minelli and Fosse worked hard to show the typically untrained technique and stereotypical moves that an enthusiastic amateur like Sally would have used. Minelli - a trained dancer - later claimed that rehearsing these jerky, exaggerated moves seeded many of her later arthritis problems.
  • Beta Couple: Fritz and Natalia
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Fritz and Natalia. Though how long it will last is not too clear...
  • Kick the Dog: Almost literally. Some Nazis kill Natalia's dog and leave it on her front porch.
  • Large Ham: Liza Minelli's Sally Bowles.
  • Money Song: "Money Money"
  • Mood Whiplash: Within the one song. "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" starts with a simple boy with a great voice singing. But when the camera pans back to reveal his Hitler Youth uniform and everyone in the audience joins in together, it gets extremely creepy.
  • Movie Bonus Song / Ret Canon: "Mein Herr", "Maybe this Time" and "Money Money".
  • Sophisticated As Hell: "I think your paper and you party are pure crap, sir!"
  • Quieter Than Silence: The credits roll in complete silence.
  • Triang Relations: Sally/Maximillian/Cliff are in a Type 8 relationship, although it's far from harmonious.