LIVE: “Cabaret” @ Cohoes Music Hall
Christopher Isherwood first intended to turn his experiences as a young man in Berlin in 1929-1933 into a novel entitled “The Lost”: He explained that that title had three different meanings for him: “It meant ‘those who have lost their own way’ – that mass of Germans who were being herded blindly into the future by their Nazi shepherds. It meant ‘the doomed’ – those who…were already marked down as Hitler’s victims. And, in a lighter, ironic sense it meant ‘those whom respectable society regards as moral outcasts’ – Sally Bowles, the lost girl…”
The other night, as I was listening to a book on CD, I suddenly heard the voice of Sally Bowles speaking to me. This is less remarkable than it might seem since I was listening to Christopher Isherwood’s 1973 autobiography “Christopher and His Kind,” which covers the decade from 1929-1939, the early years of which Isherwood spent in Berlin where his experiences and the people he met became the basis and inspiration for his “Berlin Stories”* which in turn eventually became “Cabaret.”
And it is probably also not surprising that in 1973, immediately after the whirlwind years in which highly successful stage (1966) and film (1972) versions of “Cabaret” appeared, Isherwood could so easily write in Sally’s voice, even though he did not write the libretto or screenplay. I think what surprised me was what a clear, strong voice it was. Every writer encounters characters who just demand to be heard and seem to spring, like Athena, full formed from their creator’s skull. From the moment she appeared in Isherwood’s 1939 collection of short stories, “Goodbye to Berlin,” Sally Bowles has taken center stage and demanded the world’s attention.