“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking… Someday all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.” – Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin
On Friday night, Anne and I went to see Cabaret, the opening offering of this new season of the Rep. Before the show; we had dinner at Cyrano’s. The Rep reached back into history for this production of Cabaret. This offering was a revival of 1966 production of Cabaret and not the newer and glossier, 1972, Bob Fosse, production that stared Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. This version of Cabaret is more closely aligned to the preceding 1951 John Van Druten play, I Am a Camera, whose title is itself an allusion to the opening line of Christopher Isherwood’s founding book, Goodbye to Berlin.
The New York critic, Walter Kerr, famously quipped a three-word critique of Van Druten’s play, “Me no Leica.” After having seen this musical, I find myself in the Kerr camp. All of the performances were fine, most of the material was familiar too, but there was a hideousness to this play that does not belong in musical theater. Nazis are a staple, typically cardboard cutout bad guys. Fosse chose to limit all music to the confines of the Kit Kat Club, selecting only the nightclub numbers for song. This cordoning off of the cabaret from the rest of society isolated it and buffered the audience from the horrible changes that were occurring in Germany at that time. The first act’s closing anthem, Tomorrow Belongs to Me, drives home the awful changes that were happening then throughout German society and raises the specter that it could reoccur again.