Cabaret

  • Directors: Bob Fosse
  • Producers: Cy Feuer
  • Writers: Christopher Isherwood, John Van Druten, Joe Masteroff, Jay Allen
  • Genres: Drama, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Joel Grey

Film Programmer Joanna Ney says in discussing the film. “The musical numbers are, in fact, the essence of the film and inform the narrative.”

In early 1930s Berlin, American singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) performs at the Kit Kat Klub. A new arrival in the city, Brian Roberts (Michael York), moves into Sally’s apartment building. A reserved English academic and writer, Brian gives English lessons to earn a living while completing his German studies. Sally unsuccessfully tries to seduce Brian and suspects he may be gay (Christopher Isherwood, on whose semi-autobiographical book the film is indirectly based, was gay and reportedly “went to Berlin in search of boys to love”).

Brian tells Sally that on three previous occasions he has tried to have romantic relationships with women, all of which have failed. The unlikely pair become friends, and Brian is witness to Sally’s anarchic, bohemian life in the last days of the German Weimar Republic. Later in the film, Sally and Brian become lovers despite their earlier reservations, and Brian and Sally conclude with irony that his previous failures with women were because they were “the wrong three girls.”

Sally befriends Maximilian von Heune, a rich playboy baron who takes her and Brian to his country estate. It becomes ambiguous which of the duo Max is seducing, epitomized by a scene in which the three dance intimately together in a wine-induced reverie. Max eventually loses interest in the two, and leaves them back in Berlin. When Sally triumphantly tells Brian that she slept with Max, Brian begins to laugh and reveals that he slept with Max as well. After the ensuing argument, Brian storms off and picks a fight with a group of Nazis, who beat him senseless. Brian and Sally make up in their rooming house, where Sally reveals that Max left them an envelope of money.

Although the songs throughout the film allude to and advance the narrative, every song except “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” is executed in the context of a Kit Kat Klub performance.

Chicago

  • Directors: Rob Marshall
  • Producers: Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Craig Zadan, Martin Richards
  • Writers: Maurine Watkins, Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, Bill Condon
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Musical
  • Actors: Catherine Zeta Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C Reilly, Taye Diggs, Christine Baranski

The film takes place in Chicago, circa 1924. Naive Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) visits a nightclub where star Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) performs (“And All That Jazz”). Hart is having an affair with Fred Casely (Dominic West) in hopes that he will get her a gig as a vaudeville star. Velma is arrested after the show for murdering her adulterous husband and sister Veronica after finding them in bed together. After Roxie realizes that Fred will not help her break into show business, she kills him in a fit of rage and tries to make her simple-minded husband Amos (John C. Reilly) take the fall (“Funny Honey”). However, the police and Amos (realizing she has been unfaithful to him) see through her ruse and Roxie is arrested and sent to the Cook County Jail.

Once Roxie arrives and is booked, she is sent to Murderess’ Row to await trial, under the care of the corrupt Matron “Mama” Morton (Queen Latifah), who supplies her girls with cigarettes and other materials if she is paid well enough (“When You’re Good to Mama”). Roxie meets Velma in jail as the woman in charge, and learns the stories behind the other women in Murderess’ Row (“Cell Block Tango”). Roxie decides that she wants Velma’s lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) to get her off (“All I Care About”), and convinces her husband to talk to him. Billy decides to take Roxie’s case and get her off by making her a star.

With nothing left, Roxie once more sets off to find a stage career, with little success (“Nowadays”). However, she is soon approached by Velma, who is willing to revive a two-person act with Roxie. Roxie refuses at first, because of the hatred that they share for each other, but relents. The two murderesses, no longer facing jail time, finally become the enormous successes they have been longing to be (“Nowadays”/”Hot Honey Rag”).