78. Cabaret

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Movie: Cabaret

Release Date: February 13, 1972

Director: Bob Fosse

Starring: Liza Minelli, Michael York, Joel Grey, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson, Fritz Wepper.

Tag Lines: “The Award-Winning Smash Hit Musical.”

“A divinely decadent experience!”

“Come to the Cabaret.”

“Life is a Cabaret.”

Relevance: As I have mentioned a few times already on this blog, my mom was a huge fan of Broadway musicals. I grew up listening to the vinyl soundtracks of “Camelot,” “Golden Boy,” “The Sound of Music,” “Grease” and many, many more. Her collection was vast and she loved listening to them while she cleaned and baked. She loved Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand a lot, but if she had to pick a third favorite, it would have been Liza Minelli. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to her belt out “New York, New York.” Liza, not my mom. My mom was a self-proclaimed horrible singer and never sang, but she loved listening. She also owned the soundtrack to the movie ‘Cabaret’ that got quite a bit of airplay in our house as well. It was Liza’s “Cabaret” that really caught my ear.

I don’t remember the first time that I saw the film ‘Cabaret,’ but I know that it was sometime in the late 1970’s on our local ABC channel. There was an afternoon show (I forget the name of the show) that played movies, each week having a specific theme. One week would be horror, one week would be a specific actor or director, one week would be musicals. ‘Cabaret,’ obviously, played during the week of musicals. I knew the music already, but seeing the visuals was very intriguing to a young lad in his single digits. It was an edited for television version of the film, but it still made my young eyes as wide as saucers during some scenes. That only made me more intrigued about the movie.

By the late 1980’s, I was a full fledged Broadway musical fan just like my mom. By that time I had already seen a few shows in the Big Apple and every year my mom and I would watch the Tony Awards. I get my love for award shows from her. I remember the 1988 telecast quite well as Madonna was a presenter. Yes, my memories all circle around Madonna events. Luckily for me, she has always been an active entertainer or I wouldn’t remember anything. Besides Madonna, I also remember a few nominations for the 1987 revival of “Cabaret.” I made a mental note that I had to revisit that film. Within the next few weeks, I visited my local Blockbuster store and did just that.

I fell instantly in love with ‘Cabaret.’ The music, the visuals, the story, the acting, especially Liza, was impeccable, but I was most intrigued by Mr. Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies. He was weird, quirky, funny and I fell in love with him and his character. I bought the soundtrack to the film on cassette and in between Madonna albums, it was played quite a bit. Within a week, I knew every single song that the Emcee sang (of course Liza’s songs too) and played the tape and sang along non-stop. Little did I know that those songs would be listened to, played and sang a lot more in my life.

My love for the movie ‘Cabaret’ never waned and in 1998 there was a Broadway revival of the show that I really wanted to see starring Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming. I loved Joel Grey as the Emcee, but Mr. Cumming’s portrayal was fresh, sexy and so captivating. He won the Tony award for his performance and it was during that Tony Award show that I made a pact with myself that one day I was going to play the Emcee on stage. Not only did I fulfill that pact, but I did so twice.

In 2009, I started doing Community theater. I was more a fan of straight plays (ironic, I know), but most groups are very big with their musicals. I enjoy seeing them, but since I am not a grand singer, it is the one element I struggle with the most and like when I don’t have to. However, that never stops me from auditioning. That was especially the case when I learned that there was going to be auditions for ‘Cabaret.’ I was so there. And luckily I was blessed with nabbing the role. It was so much fun to perform as the Emcee. When that show ended, I was thrilled that I had the opportunity but sad that I would no longer be in the Emcee’s shoes. Luckily enough, three years later, another local group was producing the show. Unfortunately, I did not know about auditions as I dropped all social media accounts at the time and would have missed them if it weren’t a dear friend. She reached out to me and I was able to go to call-backs and eventually nab that role once again. I promised that this time through I would enjoy every second of the role and I did just that. It was a successful run and one that I am very, very proud of.

‘Cabaret’ was a movie that I held very close to my heart. It was a grand, old school musical, but dark and ominous and unlike anything I had seen before. The movie led me to the Broadway show, which I actually prefer over the movie plot wise. But for me, the movie came first and if it wasn’t for me falling in love with Liza and Joel Grey, I would have never have experienced performing the Emcee twice on stage. So thank you Liza, Joel, Bob Fosse and Kander and Ebb. You all rank very high in my life and ‘Cabaret’ deservedly lands in my top one hundred favorite films of all time.

Today’s Thoughts: “In here, life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful!”

I love ‘Cabaret’ and as soon as I heard that drum roll at the beginning of the film today, a smile appeared on my face. How could it not? I have so many great memories of playing that role. But since I am a little under the weather today, I am glad that it was Joel Grey doing all the work. All I had to do was sit back, relax and be entertained.

I have seen this movie so many times and have heard those songs and words so much, you would think that I would be sick of it by now. But alas I am not. The movie is so entertaining and both Liza and Joel Grey deserved every accolade they received for their performances. This movie, its story and especially its music will never, ever get old for me.

‘Cabaret’ is a fantastic film and you should definitely check it out. However, if we ever have open theater halls again, I highly recommend seeing a production of the stage version as well. Both are equally entertaining as well as thought provoking and timely. “Life is a Cabaret,” indeed.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Director, Bob Fosse (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Liza Minelli (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Joel Grey (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Geoffrey Unsworth (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Rolf Zehetbauher, Hans Jurgen Kiebach, Herbert Strabel (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Robert Knudson, David Hildyard (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, David Bretherton (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and/or Adaptation, Ralph Burns (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Jay Presson Allen (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Liza Minelli (winner), Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, Joel Grey (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Bob Fosse (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture, Marisa Berenson (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Jay Presson Allen (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “Mein Herr,” John Kander, Fred Ebb (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, “Money, Money,” John Kander, Fred Ebb (nomination), Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female, Marisa Berenson (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Bob Fosse (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Actress, Liza Minelli (winner), BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, Joel Grey (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Art Direction, Rolf Zehetbauher (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Sound Track, David Hildyard, Robert Knudson, Arthur Piantadosi (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Geoffrey Unsworth (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, Marisa Berenson (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Charlotte Flemming (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing, David Bretherton (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Jay Presson Allen (nomination), Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Bob Fosse (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Best Film (winner), National Board of Review for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Director, Bob Fosse (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor, Joel Grey (winner), National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress, Marisa Berenson (winner), National Film Registry (1995), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor, Joel Grey (winner), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, Liza Minelli (nomination), National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography, Geoffrey Unsworth (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium, Jay Presson Allen (winner).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, DVD Availability.

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