Last week I went to the Hawth Theatre in Crawley to see the 2019 tour of Cabaret directed by National Theatre Director Rufus Norris. It is one of my all-time favourite musicals, and on my ‘Director’s Bucket List’ for The Green Room Productions to produce one day. I was quite literally blown away by this production! I have seen Cabaret produced professionally many, many times but this version shot to my number one spot in an instant. The choreography was second to none and totally awe-inspiring, the set and costumes perfect, the cast outstanding (John Partridge gave an excellent performance as the Emcee) and the lighting was superb. If you are a fan of the show it is well worth a weekend trip away to see it, I’ll put the remaining dates and venues at the end of this blog.
The show is a musical adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play I Am A Camera, John Van Druten’s 1951 play based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Diaries (“Mr Norris Changes Trains” and “Goodbye To Berlin”) published in 1935 and 1939.
Sally Bowles is a fictional character from the novels, she is a 19-year-old English actress and cabaret singer who has come to Berlin with dreams of stardom. Isherwood’s description of seeing her perform for the first time, at a cabaret called The Lady Windermere off the Tauentzeinstraße in autumn of 1930, is not a promising one: ‘She had a surprisingly deep, husky voice. She sang badly, without any expression, her hands hanging down at her sides – yet her performance was, in its own way, effective because of her startling appearance and her air of not caring a curse of what people thought of her.’ - It has always kind of irked me that in almost every production of Cabaret I have seen, the age of the actress playing Sally Bowles is usually around 30+.
The first West End production opened on February 28, 1968 at the Palace Theatre, starring Dame Judi Dench as Sally (she was 32). John Kander famously said “Judi Dench, who is without question the best Sally Bowles I’ve ever seen in my life”. Talking about the infamous green nail varnish and false eyelashes Sally wears, Judi says “we had to send to America for green nail varnish – you couldn’t buy it over here – and the company made my false eyelashes by rolling bits of black paper round pencils.”
Over the years the musical has transformed, some of the music has changed and directors have taken the piece to much darker levels (which I believe it deserves). Liza Minelli auditioned for Sally in the Broadway production and was rejected, ironically, years before being cast in the movie; (this would have been the late 60’s). At the time it didn't bother her, because she was a rising star in Hollywood, and had the sense that she would be offered the role in the movie, and she was right!
Cabaret – The Movie – Fun Facts
Years before Cabaret (1972) was filmed, Liza Minnelli performed Maybe This Time when she appeared with her mother Judy Garland at the London Palladium.
Liza Minnelli designed all her own hair and make-up with the help of her father, famed musical director Vincente Minnelli.
Many of the interiors of the film were done on sound stages in Munich recently vacated by the cast and crew of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).
Selected in 2003 by the Smithsonian Institution as one of eight films being preserved for future generations.
Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Ann Margaret, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Jill Ireland, Glenda Jackson, Shirley MacLaine, Barbra Streisand, Brenda Vaccaro and Natalie Wood were considered for Sally Bowles.
Cabaret The 2019 Tour
24 – 28 September CHESTER The Storyhouse Theatre
1 – 5 October DUBLIN Bord Gais Energy Theatre
8 – 12 October BELFAST Grand Opera House
15 – 19 October LEICESTER Curve Theatre
22-26 October SHREWSBURY Theatre Severn
29 October – 2 November HULL New Theatre
5 – 9 November EDINBURGH Festival Theatre
12 – 16 November ABERDEEN His Majesty’s Theatre
19 – 23 November MALVERN Festival Theatre
Go see it if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
And now for some fun …. watch Dame Judi Dench perform Don’t Tell Mama from Cabaret