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Is life a cabaret? Cabaret and its sources in reality and the imagination

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The article will explore the accuracy behind the creative conceit that cabaret life during the waning days of the Weimar Republic can serve as ‘metaphor for Germany’. The article will show how the peripheral presence of the cabaret in Christopher Isherwood’s stories and John Van Druten’s play adaptation I Am a Camera assumed primary importance in the musical Cabaret (directed by Hal Prince), Bob Fosse’s film based on the show and future stage productions, including the London and New York revival directed by Sam Mendes. The article will demonstrate that however effective as an artistic and social statement the guiding metaphor of Prince, largely retained by his successors, the powerful and persuasive artistic visions and social statements of the musical versions are historically misleading.

Keywords: Cabaret on stage and film; Christopher Isherwood and The Berlin Stories; Hal Prince, Bob Fosse and Sam Mendes; John Kander and Fred Ebb; anti-Semitism and sexual transgression in Weimar Republic cabaret; cabaret in the Weimar Republic

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Puget Sound

Publication date: August 18, 2011

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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