She first made her appearance in John Van Druten's I Am A Camera (based on Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories) way back in 1951 at the Empire Theater on Broadway and Sally was portrayed by Julie Harris who won a Tony Award for her performance. Also in the cast was Marian Winters who won a Best Supporting Tony for her dramatic performance in the role of Natalia Landauer, a role which was made prominent in the film. The only other familiar character from this production for Cabaret afficionados is that of Fraulein Schneider. It's interesting to see that there was a character listed as "Christopher Isherwood" and this obviously was reincarnated as "Clifford Bradshaw" in the 1967 musical. An interesting side note is that the Tony Award for Best Director in 1952 went to Jose Ferrer for Stalag 17. When Julie Harris left the production, the role was taken over by Barbara Baxley.
Cabaret, the 1967 musical, was based on both the play I Am A Camera and The Berlin Stories and it, of course, is Broadway legend now after it picked up a slew of Tony nominations and awards. The role of Sally was played by actress Jill Haworth on Broadway and when the show opened in London, Judi Dench sang to the world..."What good is sitting alone in your room... come to the Cabaret!" Joel Grey won the Tony for his stirring performance as the Emcee in the Best Supporting Actor category, a role he would repeat in the film. While Haworth didn't pick up a Tony nomination both Lotte Lenya and Peg Murray did in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories with Murray winning for her performance as Fraulein Kost, the lady who entertained the sixth fleet. Obviously there are some juicy roles in Cabaret, the stage musical, and this brings us to the film which is about Liza Minelli and not much else.
There is no question that the film is a great one and Liza was certainly performing the role of a lifetime. The film is still based on the Isherwood stories but it centers on Sally Bowles; leaving the other characters not as well developed as the stage musical. It's for this reason that I'll run to see a production of Cabaret and will only watch the film when I'm in the mood for a Liza concert.
The next Sally Bowles on Broadway was Alyson Reed in the 20th Anniversary revival in 1988. Both Alyson and Regina Resnik (Fraulein Schneider) were nominated for Tony's and Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink on "Hogan's Hero's" ...and wasn't that based on Stalag 17?) also picked up a nomination for his portrayal as Herr Schultz. I remember when the nominations were announced that year wondering if Joel Grey would be nominated again. He wasn't, but it would have been interesting because he had star billing over the show's title which would have put him in the Best Actor category and not Best Supporting as he was in 1967 for the very same role.
Natasha Richardson is the newest Sally Bowles and I hear she's just great and it looks like her performance has Tony nomination written all over it. She's the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson, so it must be in the genes. Christina D'Angelo reviews Cabaret in her current Christina's World column... giving huge thumbs up for this production. Tickets are scarce so you better act now!
With all those great stage actresses who portrayed Sally throughout the years why would anyone even think of the film? I suppose, it's for the same reason that we think of Julie Andrews in the film, The Sound of Music, and forget whatshername, but at least the film had a very similar storyline.
Tidbits: While we are on the subject of Kander & Ebb musicals, WNET, Public Television, has an interesting article called "The Music of Kander and Ebb" on their website. I got a big chuckle out of it as they list on their resource page a link to Talkin' Broadway to a story I wrote about Chicago called "Chicago '96 vs. Chicago '75"...here's what they said, "An enthusiastic critic extols both the new and the old, tossing around the superlatives and exclamation points like a kid in a toy store." I guess I'm the kinda guy who never met a musical he didn't like. Still, Chicago is brilliant! Wonderful! Fabulous beyond words! There I go again with those superlative and exclamation points.
Tune in to WNET this week as it's pledge drive time again and for those of you who live in the boonies, I don't know how you'd live without Public Television. Today is the "Michael Crawford Concert" and I'll be manning the volunteer phones during the broadcast. Aside from concerts, where would we be without Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances?
Broadway musicians reached a tentative agreement and will not be going out on strike. What's interesting here is that the musicians will be making $40.00 more a week in their salaries and this, supposedly, will push ticket prices up to $85.00. How do they do their math? If you have 16 musicians, that means an increase of $640.00 in wages against what, $15,000. a night at the box office? I'm confused.
Does anyone still wear a hat? On Forty Second street they will be. BC/EFA will be sponsoring the 12th annual Easter Bonnet competition at the New Amsterdam theater on April 13th and 14th. Head over to their website for the details.
West Enders will be getting a treat as Showboat lands on their shores complete with the 57 member Broadway cast. Fortunately, agreements between Canadian Equity, of which the Showboat production is, and British Equity were ironed out easily. If it was between British and American equity, they'd be working out the deal well into the next millenium. Showboat opens at the Prince Edward next month.
A friend ran into Dean Pitchford on the subway recently. He's working on the forthcoming musical, Footloose, which is heading into the Richard Rogers. No stranger to Broadway, he starred for a number of years in shows like Pippin and Godspell before turning to writing. He penned the screenplay and lyrics to all the songs for the hit film Footloose and was nominated for both Grammy and Academy Awards. This time around, I hope the creative team is all on the same page because this guy is a great lyricist. You may remember one of his other musicals... it was called Carrie.
The production chronicles the misadventures of novelist Stine, played by Neal Benari (Victor/Victoria, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Chess), who is in the midst of developing his novel about the wise-cracking detective Stone, played by Darrin Baker (Sunset Boulevard, Les Miserables, into a screenplay.
Stine's life, played out in color on one side of the stage is complicated by the egotistical movie producer Buddy, played by Kenny Morris (Les Miserables, She Loves Me), who proclaims respect for writer's talents while at the same time rewriting their every word. Across the stage, Stone, whose life is played out as a film-noir movie, has problems of his own.
The production also includes the talents of Jeanne Jones who portrays the dual roles of Alaura and Carla, Valeri Perri who plays Gabby and Bobbi, and Lisa Robinson (Annie, Baby) playing Oolie and Donna.
As the story unfolds, the two worlds increasingly merge in a kind of geometrical progression of art and life, one imitating the other. Aiding in this process is the cross-casting of many of the characters from one story to the other. Often times, what is said in the real world of Stine comes back in the film world of his screenplay. In many ways the appreciation of this show grows with each additional viewings.
In a production that could easily have buckled at the knees of a technically demanding show, American Musical Theatre comes out shining in Technicolor. City makes use of original sets from the first national tour designed by Robin Wagner, lighting by Pamela Gray, and the usual slick direction by veteran Dianna Shuster.
City of Angels performs through March 29 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Art, located at 255 Almaden Blvd. Tickets ($35-$50) are available by calling AMTSJ at (888) 455-SHOW.
- Mark Bakalor
And last, but not least, join us for our new "Spotlight On" interview with the star of the Broadway smash hit Ragtime, Brian Stokes Mitchell!
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