There are musicals out there which, no matter how long ago they first made their debut, never seem to die, returning to the stage again and again and always met with a warm welcome from theatre fans: Cabaret certainly fits this bill.
A revival of the show recently popped up in the West End at the Savoy Theatre, led by Michelle Ryan as British cabaret singer ‘Sally Bowles’ and Will Young as the ‘Emcee’. The re-imagined production has been well-received, with high-praise going to its talented cast. The story of Kit Kat Klub singer Bowles and her relationship with American writer Cliff Bradshaw, set against the backdrop of the Nazi’s rise to power in 1931 Berlin, is a powerful one which has moments of both dark intensity and sexuality, and satirical humour and tongue-in-cheek light relief.
The musical, inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel Goodbye To Berlin and the 1951 play adaption I Am A Camera by John Van Druten, first appeared on Broadway in 1966, and has since become an undeniable classic piece of theatre. Joe Masteroff wrote the book of the musical, which also features music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. It has repeatedly run on both Broadway and the West End, as well as numerous international productions being staged around the globe, in the likes of Brazil, Melbourne, France, Spain, Argentina, Canada and South Africa. It was also adapted into an award-winning hit film in 1972, starring Liza Minnelli in what has become her definitive role. The daughter of The Wizard of Oz actress Judy Garland, Minnelli won the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ for her performance as ‘Sally Bowles’ and rose to international stardom. She has since become known as a renowned stage and screen star and a highly successful recording artist, and is one of the rare few who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award. She is also beloved as a highly-prominent gay icon. She made a cameo appearance in the Sex and the City 2 film, performing Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ at a gay wedding in an amusing turn which poked fun at her high-standing in the gay community with the line: “It’s a law of physics: any time there’s this much gay energy in a room, Liza manifests.”
Minnelli will always be connected with her Cabaret role, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Next year, she’ll perform songs from the musical in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in a weekend celebrating Weimar-era Berlin. The weekend is part of the year-long The Rest is Noise festival and begins on 1st March 2013. Artistic director of the Southbank Centre, Jude Kelly, said of Minnelli’s forthcoming performance: “We are delighted to welcome back Liza Minnelli to the Royal Festival Hall…Fosse’s Cabaret is one of the most iconic, intimate depictions of 1930s’ Berlin and we are thrilled that the artist who so brilliantly gave life to the complex character of Sally Bowles can take part as we look back at this particular moment in history.”
The concert will be screened as part of the festival, allowing a wide range of people to hear Minnelli sing some of the musical’s classic numbers, such as ‘Maybe This Time’, ‘Mein Herr’ and of course, the title song, ‘Cabaret’. She last performed at the Royal Festival Hall in 1973 with her Liza with a Z concert and had “a swell time” there. Speaking about the 2013 spring concert, Minnelli said: “I’m always so excited to perform in London. I have so many friends and fans there that I consider it my second home. And to be returning to the Royal Festival Hall after all this time is thrilling.”
Cabaret is such an iconic part of musical theatre, embedded into the hearts and minds of an expanse of people from all around the world. It is a musical that will never fully disappear as fans never seem to tire of it. Maybe you’ll go to see the latest incarnation at the Savoy Theatre. Maybe you’ll sit at home with the classic originality of the film version. Maybe you’ll drive home listening to the soundtrack in your car. Or maybe, you’ll want to enjoy the live experience of the classic Liza Minnelli’s performance of the classic songs. Either way, for the mass of enamoured fans, life will always be a Cabaret…
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 20th December 2012