Friday, December 15, 2017
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Lore and legend: 5 things to know about 'Cabaret'

Here are five things worth knowing about the Broadway musical that was made into one of the greatest movie musicals. John Fleming, Times performing arts critic

1The many portrayals of Sally Bowles: Julie Harris originally played her onstage, winning a Tony Award for her performance as the chanteuse in I Am a Camera, the 1951 play by John Van Druten (later a movie, with Harris and Laurence Harvey). Jill Haworth was the original Sally in Cabaret on Broadway in 1966. Liza Minnelli made the role her own in the 1972 movie. Natasha Richardson won a Tony for her performance in the 1998 revival. Others who have portrayed the singer include Judi Dench and Andrea McArdle (on the tour that played Tampa in 2001).

2Is Cliff gay, bisexual or straight? In The Berlin Stories, the sexual preference of Sally's roommate is kept neutral, because author Christopher Isherwood, openly gay, feared that a homosexual protagonist would limit his readership when the novels were published in the 1930s. In the movie, the Cliff character (named Brian) is bisexual and he sleeps with Sally. In many recent stage productions, such as Freefall's, he is gay.

3Why the movie is not Cabaret as seen onstage: For the movie the Kander-Ebb score went through some changes, such as dropping Don't Tell Mama for Mein Herr and adding a torch song for Sally, Maybe This Time. The screenplay made Sally an American, added a Jewish aristocrat (Marisa Berenson as Natalia Landauer), and dispensed with the relationship of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz.

4Sally's look (from The Berlin Stories): "As she dialed the number, I noticed that her fingernails were painted emerald green, a color unfortunately chosen, for it called attention to her hands, which were much stained by cigarette smoking and as dirty as a little girl's. . . . Her face was long and thin, powdered dead white. She had very large brown eyes which should have been darker, to match her hair and the pencil she used for her eyebrows."

5Cliff's epilogue: "There was a cabaret, and there was a master of ceremonies, and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world, and I was dancing with Sally Bowles, and we were both fast asleep."

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