CABARET is based on a collection of short stories by Christopher Isherwood, "The Berlin Stories".
John van Druten adapted Isherwood’s book into the play "I am a Camera", and director and producer Harold Prince, adapted "I am a Camera" into a musical. Prince’s original Broadway production of CABARET in 1966 was a hit, with audiences and critics alike.
Bob Fosse adapted CABARET for a 1972 film. Joel Grey would reprise his Tony Award-winning performance as the Emcee, but Sally Bowles was re-imagined as an American for actress Liza Minnelli, Cliff was renamed Brian and was made British as originally written in Isherwood's stories.
CABARET continued the tradition of attracting directors and choreographers with a strong vision in 1995 when director Sam Mendes created a new CABARET at the Donmar Warehouse in London starring Alan Cumming as the Emcee and Jane Horrocks as Sally. After a huge success in the UK they brought CABARET back to Broadway adding Rob Marshall as choreographer with Cummings reprising his role with Natasha Richardson playing Sally.
The first Australian production was in Western Australia in 1971 starring Nancye Hayes as Sally Bowles and Jon Ewing as Emcee.
The first major Australian professional production was in Adelaide with the State Theatre Company of South Australia, directed by Simon Phillips in the early 1990s. John Frost and Phillip Emmanuel produced a Sydney production in 1995 at the Footbridge Theatre directed by Richard Wherrett and choreographed by Ross Coleman.
A full national tour of CABARET was presented in 2002 when IMG toured the Sam Mendes production to critical acclaim and won 7 Helpmann Awards.
Nominated for 27 Tony Awards and won 12 including Best Musical in 1966 and Best Revival in 1998.
Nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 8
Nominated for 11 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards and won 7 including Best Film.
Nominated for 13 Drama Desk Awards and won 3 including Best Revival
Welcome to the Cabaret sings the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club through painted lips, as the people of Berlin 1929 join him.
Heading for Berlin in a railway compartment is Clifford Bradshaw, a young impoverished American writer who has been roaming Europe in an increasingly frantic search for the inspiration for novel number two. He is joined by Ernst Ludwig, an attractive young Berliner who appears to be in the smuggling business. When Cliff inadvertently helps him, Ernst gratefully gives him the name of a likely rooming-house in Berlin - Fräulein Schneider’s house. She rents Cliff a room for half its usual price.
Cliff takes out his typewriter, but it’s New Year’s Eve. Ernst has mentioned a cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub, which, at that moment, seems much more inviting than the typewriter. The Kit Kat Klub is a cross-section of Berlin night-life: thronged with fat, middle-class Germans-prostitutes-homosexuals-the flotsam and jetsam of a doomed city.
As Cliff enters the Emcee introduces Sally Bowles, a young English girl. As Sally sings Don’t Tell Mama, it becomes apparent that her voice is not the main reason for her employment. Max, the club owner, keeps looking at her in a proprietary fashion, but Sally is looking at Cliff. Sally arranges to meet Cliff. He invites her home, but she refuses, explaining that “Max is most terribly jealous.”
The next day Sally suddenly appears in Cliff’s room with her baggage. Max has thrown her out. Can she stay with Cliff? Cliff finally agrees. The Emcee and two Fräuleins indicate that everybody in Berlin lives with somebody.
Fräulein Schneider is being courted by Herr Schultz, a widower who lives in her house. He is Jewish and the owner of a fruit shop, from which he brings her a costly pineapple.
Months pass. Cliff is getting nowhere with his novel, but enjoying life with Sally. Sally is pregnant. Cliff is upset and then happy. Ernst arrives to offer him a job smuggling a briefcase into Germany. Needing the money, Cliff accepts. Everyone in Berlin earns money in strange, illegal ways, the Emcee announces in The Money Song.
Fräulein Kost, a prostitute, discovers that her landlady, Fräulein Schneider, is having an affair with Herr Schultz. Herr Schultz announces they are to be married in three weeks – Married! Sally arranges an engagement party at the fruit shop.
Cliff arrives at the party with the smuggled suitcase. He hesitantly gives it to Ernst, who wears a swastika arm-band. Ernst decides to leave, but Fräulein Kost lures him back by singing a Nazi song Tomorrow Belongs to Me. When all the guests join in exultantly, the party suddenly turns sour. Fräulein Schneider breaks her engagement to Herr Schultz. She is afraid the Nazis will come to power. The Emcee echoes her predicament - he is in love with a female gorilla.
Cliff decides to take Sally home to America. Berlin is not going to be any place to raise a family. But Sally refuses. She loves Berlin and her life there. They have a savage argument. Sally disappears, returning the next day. She’s had an abortion. Heartbroken, Cliff prepares to leave alone, secretly hoping she will join him in Paris, but Sally informs him she’s always hated Paris. Cliff sadly closes the door behind him.
In the train Cliff begins to write about Sally and the people of Berlin as, in his memory, they surround the compartment, singing, dancing, and living on the toboggan that led to the Third Reich.