Jan 31, 2018
By Broadway Live INSIDER - Michael J. Miller
"No. Even now I can't altogether believe that any of this has really happened."
- Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories
Author Christopher Isherwood arrived in Berlin at the tail-end of the Weimar Republic, a profoundly heady era lasting from 1918 to 1933. The democratic government founded in Germany near the end of World War I ended with Hitler's seizure of dictatorial powers in 1933. While the 1920's were a time of robust creative spark in New York, London, and Paris, it was also a time of substantial political instability in Berlin. Nazi and Communist factions were fighting for control. Inflation skyrocketed. Unemployment and crime rates were high, bread lines stretched for blocks, and strikes and riots were nearly daily occurrences.
It is the madness and danger of these times that inspired Isherwood to write The Berlin Stories, a tome that still resonates today. Notorious for its sexual freedom, homosexuals, lesbians, and transgendered persons flocked to Berlin. Prostitution was rampant and drugs were widely available. Cocaine was the most common and sold at kiosks like hot dogs. "Coke Cafes" weren't selling soft drinks, if you get my drift. Artists and all of the above were lured into basement joints and dives. Willkommen, then, to the world of CABARET.
This is the world you'll step into when the multiple Tony Award-winning revival comes to the Lexington Opera House February 16-18. Last year, the musical CABARET turned 50. A half-century since Harold Prince's ground-breaking production opened on Broadway, Kander and Ebb's musical, which uses Isherwood's Berlin remembrances as an inspiration, is still being regularly revived. Today, as the world around us seemingly darkens, the underlying themes remain horrifyingly resonant. Decades ago, theatre goers must have had a sigh of relief when they left the shadows of the theater knowing that their outside world was no longer part of this frightening history.
Perhaps, in 2018, sadly, not so much. As loss, love and everything louche play out against the collapse of democracy and the rise of the Nazi party, the seedy Kit Kat Club on the Opera House stage is the great escape and a gripping metaphor. Leave the kids at home. But wake them for a kiss and a hug when you get home. You'll need it. We all need it.
"Happy to see you, bleibe, reste, stay."