Cabarets and Conviviality

Monday Morning Musings:

“Life is a cabaret, old chum

Come to the Cabaret!”

–John Kander and Fred Ebb, “Cabaret,” from Cabaret


“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

–Jane Austen, Letter to her sister Cassandra, June 15, 1808


On a summery autumn day,

we left the sunlight

to enter the smoky den–

(the Cabaret, old friend)

Germany in the 1930s

but goose steppers are looming

the winds of war are moving

soon the guns will be booming

but for now, there is consuming

beer and goods,

here in the night,

the women are beautiful

the men are beautiful

they slink and glide

in barely-there wear

the Emcee, in heels and gowns

feather boa and garters,


grooming the audience

flirting and diverting

we’re there, but here

then, but now

I’m surprised–

though why–

startled at my own emotion reaction

because it’s no longer an abstraction,

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”

and Nazi insignia–

my throat constricts,

the body knows what the mind refuses to accept

(more goose steps)

I hear “some very fine people” gather

drivel and blather

echoes of then and now

the need to fight and disavow

what do politics have to do with us

the characters ask

We’re Germans,

(We’re Americans)

that can’t happen here,

our rights will never disappear

people standing tall and proud

arms held straight in devoted salute

They worship him

(no matter what he says)

small steps with profound consequences

(build a wall and many fences)

the slippery slope

and where’s the rope to pull us back

to ring the warning bell

to tell us now that all is well

So, what would you do

My brave young friend?

Would you pay the price?

What would you do?

What should we do?

What will you do?



We walk and talk

a wonderful production

the set well-designed,

the orchestra well-tuned and engaging

the voices delightful

the direction, insightful

altogether, quite a show


(rightfully so)

a little too close to current events

(Maybe this time)

we’ll be lucky

maybe this time

he’ll go away


We wander some more

through old city streets

encounter wedding parties

one right after the other

brides, grooms, sisters, brothers

“the wedding stalker,” my husband says,

but it makes me happy to see love and joy

(where some want only to destroy)

affirmations of love and life

after the violence, hate, killing, and strife


We drink coffee

stroll across the cobblestones


where men met to create a nation

to establish here a firm foundation

(remember the ladies, Abigail said)

but no, they simply went ahead

We’ve come a long way, baby

but still and all–

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

flawed men with lofty ideals

feet of clay

and yet they found a way

it’s still the best we have

pledges made then and now

pledges these couples make in wedding vows

to love and cherish

to pursue life and happiness together

to do their best

we must do our best

(to join together)


After the play, we join our friends

friends of years

through love and tears

FullSizeRender 221

kindred spirits

saying farewell to one couple’s house

not their first

but one where babies were born and nursed

here a family gathered

here we’ve shared many meals

often, like tonight Chinese food


viewed one way

something we’ve done before

but there’s always something new and something old

moments to cherish and hold

close here to heart and mind

to bring out and remember

should we ever find the need to,

we say farewell to the house

but not the friendship,

remember that time, we say?

That day?

And then?

Remember when?

“What do you talk about? one friend’s daughter asked.

How do you describe the talk of old friends?

We talk of all our important nothings

and then we talk some more

of children, homes, work, and retirement

of travel, plays, movies, and books

of bats in our houses

and grandchildren in our beds

of catching mice

and stalking cats

of coffee cups and chocolate cake

of food and wine

and all the time

of then

and now

and all things fine

(and some things not so)

until finally it’s time to go.

We part with hugs effusive

despite the hour

and as the moon peeks from her cloudy bower

FullSizeRender 214


we part–

Auf Wiedersehen,

but not goodbye

À bientôt

Enjoy life’s show–

it may be a cabaret

but if so, the set changes every day

and yet love, the light, true friends remain

and all our important nothings

in turns out

are really something








42 thoughts on “Cabarets and Conviviality

  1. The only show i’ve seen in NYC was Caberet at the remodeled Studio 54. It was the beginning of the reign of George Bush the Lesser and the play felt a little too close to home. I can only imaging what it would like now, esp. in a well-performed production. I suppose the hope one can hold onto is the pendulum effect. After Bush we got Obama, so after Trump we will get… then again that whole election thing might just get cancelled. :/

    • Did you see Alan Cumming in Cabaret? I would love to have seen him.
      Yes, I think if I had seen this during the Obama years, I wouldn’t have felt quite so emotional. I’ve never seen the theater version of Cabaret before though I knew the story.

      • I hadn’t seen Caberet since as a kid watching the movie. So the ending hit me as if I had never seen it.

        Yes it was Cummings I saw. One of better birthday gifts.

        The only other musical I’ve seen was Wicked, and that was much better than I thought, so if you do get a chance. 😉

      • Quite a birthday gift!
        I’ve seen many musicals, but not in New York. Wicked was just here in Philadelphia, but I didn’t get a chance to see it. I’m familiar with the show though–both daughters were involved with theater and music in high school and college.

      • The way some people can stand on a stage in front of people and not only belt out a song so people in the back row can hear it, but also do it in character is pretty dang impressive.

  2. Lovely repast, both the food and the conviviality. I see water and coffee. Maybe the wine is hidden. Thanks to you and a book I’ve read recently, I am paying more attention to the moon.
    The last lines are choice: Auf Wiedersehen,

    but not goodbye

    À bientôt

    Enjoy life’s show–

    it may be a cabaret

    but if so, the set changes every day

    and yet love, the light, true friends remain

    and all our important nothings

    in turns out

    are really something

    • Thank you very much, Marian. I’m glad you enjoyed the final lines–and quite an honor that I’ve helped you pay more attention to the moon!
      We had a variety of beverages–wine, beer, soda, and water. The bottles were in the kitchen. 🙂

  3. What a wander through the highs and lows. Cabaret always gets me, it pulls you in but you end up suffocated, awed by Sally’s innocence and drowned by her final encore! I saw it in New York with Dexter’s Micheal C Hall who opened the show standing on our table! What more is there to say!
    And then you brought me to the musical ‘Is There Life After Highschool’, a group of classmates metting up years later and discussing who they were and laughing at what they became.

    Here’s to tomorrow belonging to us all!
    A bientot

    • Thank you, Damien! Michael C. Hall on your table would definitely be memorable! 🙂 The Emcee and Kit Kat performers interacted with the audience in this production, too. The woman who played Sally had a beautiful voice. I thought she was almost too cute for the role at first, but it did underscore her essential innocence and vulnerability. And yes, tomorrow for all of us!

  4. Merril, was this version like the movie or was it the play or something else? I was first exposed to it as the movie, which I loved. And then went to a play version, which is not the musical. SO different and not as good IMO. But I haven’t seen the musical performed on stage and would love to.

    • Hi, Luanne. I thought you were going to tell me your daughter was in this. 🙂 This was the play/musical on which the movie is based–songs by Kander and Ebb. This was based on the Roundabout Theater’s 1998 revival script. There was an earlier play version that came out in the 1950s, I think that was not a musical. They’re all based on Christopher Isherwood. The storyline is different from the movie. I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I liked it, too. In the musical theater version, Sally Bowles is English and Cliff (the guy in the boarding house) is an American writing a novel and giving English lessons. They don’t share a lover.

      • I love your last sentence here. That’s what makes the movie so good ;)! By the way, whatever happened to Marisa Berenson? I saw that play version that wasn’t a musical. It really wasn’t nearly as good although my high school drama teacher was in it and was excellent and so were the other actors. My daughter always wanted to be in the musical, but I don’t think she’s ever even found an audition for it at the right time and place for her. It really isn’t produced that often that I can see in the past ten years. Of course, since musicals are the world of (stereo)typing, she would never be cast as Sally . . . .

      • That did make the movie good, but it’s a different story in the play. I think there’s more about the threat of the Nazis (from what I remember). Part of the story involves that landlady and her Jewish lover, and I really liked that part.

      • I need to see the musical on stage. Really need to see it. I should find where it’s licensed and see if it’s going to produced anywhere I can get to in the next year.

      • I guess not so much at local theaters, and it’s not really the type of play that many high schools would want to do. I remember my older daughter did go to see a local production (an NJ theater, not a high school) of it when she was in high school though, and it has been re-done on Broadway several times.

      • Have you ever noticed that one year a bazillion theatres will do In the Heights and Sound of Music, say, and the next year nobody does those, but there are 2 billion productions of Seven Brides?

      • Maybe not those shows in particular, but it does go in cycles. I guess sometimes it has to do with licensing. A few times we’ve seen the Broadway touring company do a show, and then a few months later, it turns out a Philadelphia theater is doing it. This year, it’s Fun Home, which we saw a few months back, and the Arden Theatre is doing it in May.

  5. Yes, some things from the past are too close to our current times. There’s so much love left, enough I hope to pave the way to a different outcome. Reading posts like this give me hope. I love the way you described the talk between old friends. All those little things add up to something important. 🙂

  6. Friends are such important parts of our lives. This is so great they are still together and have shared stories of their lives throughout their years as couples/friends. Merril, this was such a warm photo of the group.
    I like the two handed coffee husband photo. Who else could hold them? ☕☕
    I saw Joel Grey on off Broadway in Cleveland in the emcee role in “Cabaret” and on Broadway being “George M!” (Cohen). He was remarkable. Liza wasn’t in the Cleveland production but I still felt her presence. 😊 I’m not sure who played the love interest in George’s life. I loved I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy song. . . as an elementary school aged girl with her family.
    The goose steps and svastika are such scary images. The way the world is being tilted, it is also scary.
    Your last sentence at first I thought you meant “it turns out” but now, can see “in turns out” like reversing directions. It made me think outside the box, Merril. ❤

    • It is interesting that the theater version and the movie version are so different, but Joel Grey was in both. I’m sure it was amazing seeing him.
      Thank you for you close reading of my words. It was supposed to be “it” instead of “in.” I added that whole final section at the last minute, but I also like the way it sends the mind when using “in.” 🙂

      • It isn’t meant at all to be critical and so glad you could see my past “observant” language arts middle school teacher in action, Merril!
        Joel Grey was a larger than life man, who was a “force to reckon with!” I was blessed to have experienced him. Not sure if I even kept my scrapbook of all the programs.
        Mom loved theatre. My favorite in Cleveland, one that she emphasized as a favorite of hers was Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” I’d love to see this done with the subtext of today’s females being brave, coming out about Harvey Weinstein.

      • I saw a production of A Doll’s House, but it was years ago, and I don’t really remember it. That is really something about Weinstein. I think there is more that will come out. My co-editor and I have already submitted our manuscript, or I’m sure this story would be mentioned in our book.

  7. It was good to round off the menace of the earlier section of this post with warm, glowing, joy. You replicated the frightening atmosphere of the film so well, and linked it aptly to today’s awful ambience

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