Cabaret – London Cast Recording 1968
1930, the eve of a New Year. Berlin, cosmopolitan hub of a bankrupt nation, is in the grip of winter. It is a city of jobless and inflated prices, of wild propaganda and sudden, nervy violence, of Communist cells and Nazi agents jockeying for power. Bars are thronged in frenzied escape from grey, sullen lives. At the Kit Kat Klub, the Master of Ceremonies (the Emcee), grotesque reflection of the spirit of the moment, advances to greet his guests (“Wilkommen!”). The cabaret is on! Clifford Bradshaw, a young American writer, is travelling to Berlin in search of material for his second novel. He meets Ernst Ludwig, a bland and charming, if curiously preoccupied, German. Ernst recommends a lodging house to Cliff and Cliff to its landlady, Fraulein Schneider. But once there, Cliff discovers Fräulein Schneider’s rooms let for more than he can afford. She asks a hundred marks; he can only offer fifty. She broods a moment, then decides, fatalistically, to accept (“So What?”). Left suddenly alone, Cliff opens his typewriter and begins work, almost. It is New Year’s Eve and the Kit Kat Klub, Ernst said, the hottest spot in all Berlin. He struggles, briefly, with his better nature. He arrives to hear the Klub’s star turn, dynamic English Fräulein, Sally Bowles (“Don’t Tell Mama”). As she sings, Sally becomes aware of Cliff. The number ended, she calls him over the table-to-table phone connection. They are interrupted by the arrival of her current protector, but discover each other again as the New Year breaks in an orgy of bonhomie (“Telephone Song”). Already it is next day. Ernst is taking his first English lesson from Cliff. Suddenly, unbelievably, Sally is ushered in. She is full of good reasons. Her involvement with Cliff, her jealous protector, most unfortunately an owner of the Klub … As Cliff so rightly guesses, she has been thrown out. But her luggage is on the stairs and, if Fräulein Schneider will be persuaded, it can all be “Perfectly Marvellous”. Sally and Cliff echo the prevailing mood. It is captured and gleefully exploited by the propagandists at the Kit Kat Klub. Everybody in Berlin has a perfectly marvellous roommate, says the Emcee, in company with two deliciously sexy ladies. Some have more! To each and everyone his multiple diversion. Nobody has time to think at all (“Two Ladies”). For the moment even Fräulein Schneider is not excluded. Herr Schultz, a lodger in the house, elderly, Jewish, the proud proprietor of a fruit shop, woos her with offerings of fruit and glasses of schnapps. Now he excels himself. Opening the paper bag proffered to her, she discovers a pineapple. Her delighted surprise and their mutual gratification put affection into words (“It Couldn’t Please Me More”). Now the tactics at the Kit Kat change. The waiters join the Emcee in a hymn to the Fatherland, simple, lyrical, compulsive in its beauty, dangerous in its proud, exclusive sentiment (“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”). The Kit Kat’s girl band reflect wryly on the abandoned gaiety of the opening with a reprise of “Wilkommen” (Entr’acte). But for Sally and Cliff the fragile dream continues (“Why Should I Wake Up?”). Even the discovery that Sally is pregnant cannot mar their happiness. Ernst, who works (Sally vaguely believes and Cliff declines to acknowledge) for some political party, offers Cliff a well-paid “smuggling” assignment. Alive to his new responsibility, Sally promptly accepts for him. Meanwhile, nationally, economic disaster. Banks are closed, small savings frozen. But foreign countries intervene to save the Mark. You see, says a bejewelled and splendidly attired Emcee, it is only you, the mass of the German people, who must suffer. Those who will be corrupted have all the money they need (“The Money Song”). The warm relationship between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz continues. One evening, Fräulein Kost, who boards with Fräulein Schneider and whose idea of duty (entertaining patriotic German sailors in quantity in her bedroom) is a subject of dispute between them, catches Herr Schultz leaving Fräulein Schneider’s room. In an inspired attempt to save her good name, he claims they are to marry. Then it occurs to them: why not? (“Married”). Herr Schultz holds a party to celebrate the engagement. On the strength of the schnapps he sings a song (“Meeskite”). The word means Ugly Face, in Yiddish. The song is coolly received and Fräulein Kost leads Ernst in a martial reprise of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” Now Nazi uniforms parade the streets. Ernst wears his swastika openly. The first brick crashes through the fruit shop window. At the Kit Kat Klub, a goose-stepping chorus and the Emcee dancing with his new girl. She is a giant gorilla. Because of prejudice, he sings ironically, one is often deceived by first impressions. “If You Could See Her” as I do, you would see she isn’t ugly at all. Fräulein Schneider is old. She is also prudent. It is the secret of her survival. The Nazis can no longer be ignored; she dare not risk marrying a Jew. Sally and Cliff are shattered to hear the marriage is off (“What Would You Do?”). Cliff can no longer plead ignorance. He must take Sally away from Berlin. But Sally is adamant. She cannot see how politics involve them. She will stay and have a career and make it at “the most unpolitical place in Berlin,” the Kit Kat Klub. Arriving there in search of her, Cliff becomes involved in a dispute with Ernst and is beaten up in full public view by his henchmen. As he is dragged away, Sally appears to perform “Cabaret.” She returns the next morning as Cliff is packing. She tells him she has got rid of the baby. They quarrel and Cliff leaves her ticket on the table as he goes, though he knows she will never follow him. As the train leaves Germany, he is haunted by the voices he has known, which come back to him as in a dream, their music saddened and changed (Finale). Were they real, these people? Did it all happen like this? Till the next time, says the Emcee.
– Shirley Matthews (From the original liner notes for S 70039)
Master of Ceremonies: Barry Dennen Clifford Bradshaw: Kevin Colson Ernst Ludwig: Richard Owens Fräulein Schneider: Lila Kedrova Herr Schultz: Peter Sallis Fräulein Kost: Pamela Strong Sally Bowles: Judi Dench Two Ladies: Venetia Fernandez, Maggie Goodwin Felix: David Wheldon Williams Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb Book by Joe Masteroff Production Directed by Harold Prince Musical Direction by Gareth Davies Cabaret opened on February 28, 1968, at The Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London