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Retro Redux: Waaay Off Broadway With Cabaret

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Well, I guess Broadway’s best – and their fans – are all excited about the Tony awards, but around here they’re not much talked about. Middle America is a long way from Broadway, and although long-running hit shows sometimes tour the country, they're usually staged in medium to large cities so a lot of us seldom get a chance to see one. As near as I can recall, our small city has never hosted any touring Broadway hits, but I do remember enjoying something that was very similar, if on a smaller scale.

For years, the local university has supported a very good drama department, and some of the shows they've put on have been nothing short of amazing — especially when you consider that their theatre – and their budget – is tiny when compared to that of the professionals. I remember that I was skeptical the first time I went to one of their shows because (a) I thought they'd be amateurish, (b) it sounded boring, and (c) it sounded really boring.

I was wrong on all counts. The skill and enthusiasm of the actors, combined with the ingenuity of the set design, costumes, and music, created a surprisingly polished facsimile of a big-time production. And not only did I enjoy it, it was also my first exposure to a show that would end up being one of the most honored of all time and would also be the basis for a classic, Oscar-winning movie — Cabaret.

The college group's production was very entertaining but obviously had to be scaled back a little, so when I later got a chance to see the movie I found a much deeper and more thoughtful setting. Intertwined with the personal stories and the wonderful musical numbers were scenes illustrating the rise of Nazi Germany. And although it was impossible to resist Liza's timeless rendition of the title song, it was another piece of music that made a more lasting impression on me.

There's a point in the movie where the main characters make a stop at a rural biergarten, a bucolic, almost sleepy place populated by seemingly content locals. However, the mood is abruptly jarred by the appearance of a troop of Nazi youth, who march to the front while the patrons of the place trade uneasy looks. One of the young men steps forward – he's an apple-cheeked, perfect Nordic type – and with his hat under his arm, begins singing in a clear tenor voice.

His song, "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" is at first greeted by silence, but as he continues to sing the crowd begins to stir and get interested. After a while, some of them join in, and eventually nearly all stand and thunderously sing the finale. Their work done, the young Nazis salute and march out. It's a chilling scene and a perfect allegory of the appeal and subsequent rise in popularity of Nazism in pre-war Germany.

Cabaret – "Tomorrow Belongs To Me"

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