It's a cabaret: Hear the music play
'Willkommen' to a great musical with adult themes. The first line of the most famous show tune from Cabaret is one I have lived by: ''What good is sitting alone in your room?"
The movie Cabaret, made after the musical had been on Broadway for six years, was released in 1972. I spent my childhood watching it until I knew every song and dance move by heart.
Most people would say the wonderful film with Liza Minnelli giving a star performance is inappropriate viewing for a child, but had I not been allowed to watch it repeatedly, I wouldn't have the love and fascination I have today for drama, music and dance.
While my mother played hockey on Sundays, I danced around the sports field, singing, ''Life is a cabaret, old chum", pretending the stand was my stage.
With great excitement I recently took my five-year-old daughter to the opening night of Cabaret at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino.
We got some sideways glances as we took our seats and I soon realised that, although I knew every number in the script, I had no idea what the show was actually about.
It opens with heavily made-up chorus line girls kicking high in their underwear.
The debauchery of the Kit Kat Club in 1931, where most of the action happens, had gone right over my head when I was six years old.
I was aware some of the actors spoke German and that the club was in Berlin, where my father came from, but I didn't have a clue that the vulgar cabaret was meant to be a mirror image of German society sliding towards Nazi rule. Just as I had been, my daughter was mesmerised by the androgynous master of ceremonies, played brilliantly by Sascha Halbhuber. ''Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome," he sings - lines immortalised by the Oscar-winning Joel Grey in the movie.
From the first tawdry scene, the show deals with some rather adult subject matter: homosexuality, multiple sexual partners, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and the destructive effect of the rising Nazi party on a decadent society.
No wonder I got enquiring looks as I walked in with my child. As had been my experience as a child, all of these issues went over my daughter's head. She loved the sheer fun and drama of each number, while I enjoyed learning the context of the music I knew and loved.
The cast was magnificent, even in the shadow of famous predecessors Minnelli, Grey and Michael York, and the stage design and costumes evoked memories of the movie.
The cabaret is so cleverly used that it is always commenting on the world (as it was then) outside it, and this show comments on issues we still face today.
With a much better and deeper understanding of this great musical, I was, once again, transfixed.
- 'Cabaret' is on at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino until August 5