'Cabaret' is still powerful, relevant

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The Oscar-winning film “Cabaret” is finally out on Blu-ray. A multitude of memorable lines and songs from “Cabaret” have left their mark on gay culture.

The film is based on the book “Goodbye to Berlin” by gay writer Christopher Isherwood (“A Single Man”). The book served as the basis for the play “I Am a Camera” and the subsequent Kander and Ebb stage musical “Cabaret.”

The 1972 film was the darling of the Academy Awards 40 years ago, taking home eight trophies, including statuettes for lead actress Liza Minnelli in the most momentous role of her career, supporting actor Joel Grey and director Bob Fosse. Coming out at a time when the movie musical had been all but written off, the success of “Cabaret” was a special triumph. It tackled such serious subjects as bisexuality, abortion, parental abandonment and anti-Semitism.

Set in early 1930s Berlin, the musical numbers take place in the Kit-Kat Club, where divinely decadent “international sensation” Fraulein Sally Bowles (Minnelli), an American singer/actress, is on the bill. Residing in a boarding house, Sally meets newcomer Brian (Michael York), a Brit looking to rent a room and give English lessons to pay the rent. In spite of her “ancient instincts,” Sally falls for him and they become fast friends. 

Initially, Brian doesn’t share Sally’s feelings, but they eventually become lovers. Soon, their circle of friends grows to include Fritz (Fritz Wepper), Jewish department store heiress Natalia (Marisa Berenson) and flirtatious, well-to-do baron Maximilian (Helmut Griem). The club performances and the budding relationships are set against – and reflect – the rise of Nazism.

Still as powerful and relevant as when it was first released, “Cabaret” startles with its visionary direction, trendsetting choreography and staggering performances.

In addition to a 40-page book, Blu-ray bonus features include featurettes, such as “Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals,” narrated by Neil Patrick Harris.

Purchase the DVD from Amazon, click here.