Originally entitled Welcome to Berlin, it is based on John Van Druten's play I Am a Camera, which in turn was adapted from the novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains and a collection of short stories, Goodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood.
Set in 1929-1930 Berlin on the eve of the Nazis' rise to power, it focuses on English cabaret singer Sally Bowles and her relationship with young American writer Cliff Bradshaw. A sub-plot involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider and one of her tenants, Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz. Overseeing the action is the Emcee, who presides as master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub and serves as a general commentator.
Original Broadway production
After 21 previews, the original Broadway production, directed by Prince and choreographed by Ron Field, opened on November 20, 1966 at the Broad Hurst Theatre, eventually transferring first to the Imperial and then the Broadway before finally completing its 1,165-performance run. The opening night cast included Jill Haworth as Sally, Bert Convy as Cliff, Lotte Lenya as Fraulein Schneider, Jack Gilford as Herr Schultz, and Joel Grey as the Emcee, with Edward Winter and Peg Murray in supporting roles. Replacements later in the run included Anita Gillette as Sally, Ken Kercheval and Larry Kert as Cliff, and Martin Ross as the Emcee.
Original West End production
The first West End production opened on February 28, 1968 at the Palace Theatre. There have been three major London revivals: in 1986, at the Strand Theatre with Kelly Hunter as Sally, Peter Land as Cliff and Wayne Sleep as the Emcee directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne; in 1993, a critically-acclaimed limited run at the Donmar Warehouse, with Alan Cumming as the Emcee directed by Sam Mendes; and in 2006 at the Lyric Theatre, opening with Anna Maxwell Martin as Sally, James Dreyfus as the Emcee, and Sheila Hancock as Fraulein Schneider. Kim Medcalf has replaced Anna Maxwell Martin with Honor Blackman taking on the role of Fraulein Schneider and as of August 2007, this production is still running.
1987 Broadway revival
After 18 previews, the first Broadway revival, again directed by Prince and choreographed by Field, opened on October 22, 1987 at the Imperial Theatre, eventually transferring to the Minskoff to complete its 261-performance run.
The second Broadway revival was a transfer of the Mendes-directed Donmar Warehouse production. Co-directed by Mendes and Rob Marshall and choreographed by Marshall, it opened after 37 previews on March 19, 1998 at the Kit Kat Klub, housed in what previously had been known as Henry Miller's Theatre. Later that year it transferred to Studio 54, where it remained for the rest of its 2377-performance run, becoming the third longest-running revival in Broadway musical history, third only to Oh! Calcutta! And Chicago. This production featured a number of notable replacements later in the run including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joely Fisher, Gina Gershon, Deborah Gibson, and many other.
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