Life is a cabaret, old chum

Start by admitting
From cradle to tomb
Isn't that long a stay.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Only a Cabaret, old chum,
And I love a Cabaret!
I'd never seen the show until last night, but I think Cabaret might now be my favorite musical, narrowly edging out Pacific Overtures-- which rarely gets put up, possibly because it includes Uncle Sam represented as a villain in Kabuki style and in general recriminates Western imperialism-- which I completely recommend, and if you don't get the chance to see it onstage, it can be seen in 20 parts on Youtube.

The song quoted above-- and indeed much of the show-- is often taken out of context.  I'd heard it before, but last night was the first time I'd heard it in it's intended, heartbreaking tenor.  The realities of the Nazi uprising had just begun to penetrate the veneer of the carefree escapism of the Berlin nightclub scene, and this was the last hurrah before it all came crumbling down.  The actress who performed it was brilliant all throughout the show-- as was the entire cast without exception-- and the memory of it still gets me choked up.

Not having seen the show before I can't say for certain if this is the exception rather than the rule, but this production of Cabaret was put up at an actual nightclub; Oberon in Harvard Square, which is a beautiful, sexy place all on its own.  The cast mingled and flirted with the audience, and made the scene changes almost completely seamless as it took place in all parts of the house; a sort of inverse theater-in-the-round.

And oh yeah, did I tell you whose production this was, and who played the part of the host?

Which makes a ton of sense if you're even vaguely familiar with her work.  I mean, check out the video for Leeds United, from Who Killed Amanda Palmer.

Gender-bending is pretty much pro forma for Cabaret, and unsurprisingly, Amanda took it up to eleven.  Of all the males in the cast, only five of them were cast as men.  Amanda herself only occasionally appeared onstage as a female, most of the time portraying the male emcee.  When she performed the number "Two Ladies," neither of the ladies were played by biological females (the hell if I know how they do outside the theater).  I stood alongside the two ladies I was with at the show and we grinned devilishly, only one of us knowing that this song was coming.

In short, if you happen to be in the Boston area between now and October 29th, fucking see it.  It's far too brilliant to be missed.

Programming note:  Venture Brothers, which is to my mind the finest incarnation of Western Animation, started the second half of it's fourth season, with another episode tomorrow.  You can expect me to have something to say about it soon thereafter


  1. That looks like a good production. I saw it in NY - I think it was my senior year of high school, with neil patrick harris. I forget the female lead, I'm not sure I was that impressed with her, but it's been so long I can't remember, and I'm not really someone able to critique theater.

  2. That must have been cool. The only musical I've seen NPH in is Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog, which I fully recommend.

    The show was pretty freaking fantastic. AFP can pretty much do it all. She's my hero.