CABARET REVIEW: on Sally Bowles and sexual freedom


I have been a fan of musicals since I was very young. I have probably had a cringey obsession with over 20 different ones growing up. But my favourite, other than Hedwig and the angry inch, which I shall cover soon, is definitely cabaret.

Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles

Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles

Cabaret is set during the Weimar republic when the Nazis were beginning to rise to power, in Berlin in 1931. The story follows a promising young singer/dancer Sally Bowles, and her friend Brian Roberts. Sally is eccentric, fun loving and very open about her sexuality. She performs late most nights at the cabaret at the Kit Kat club. But just like Holly Golightly, she has troubles with her family, and she secretly has quite low self esteem behind the confidence. Alas she is only human cannot always be perfectly happy. Brian comes into her life and the two develop a strong friendship and eventually a romantic relationship. Brian is well mannered but cheekily mpish and is starting a career in writing and translating. When sally tries to shock him by telling him she is into booze and sex, he is not shocked at all. This is pleasant to hear because although opinions about womens role in life were changing at this time, and women were free to smoke and drink and wear whatever they wanted, some men still have these issues with what women should be like today. My favourite scene has to be when her and Brian scream at the top of their lungs on the spur of the moment.

‘Come on, you feel terrific afterwards.’

What is refreshing to see in this movie, although it is dated, is the sexual liberty of Sally and hinted, the other women. Like Rocky Horror, it was another sexually liberal film of the 70s. What I, among other things, admire about Sally’s character is that she never allows herself to be strictly bound to one romantic partner. Sally is talented, independent, but emotionally vunerable, just like the rest of us. I once saw a post saying ‘don’t just write strong women, write women who cry, write women who are sensitive etc’.

Sally performs mein herr. Brilliant!


Cabaret centres on a woman and a man, but I would say the main character is Sally. Another female character is Natalia, a very rich jewish woman. Sally and Natalia speak about her father, hint at Sally’s sex life, Fritz Wendel natalia’s verging love interest and an account of Fritz ‘pouncing’ on her, which is only told through Natalia’s point of view. As for named female characters, all of the cabaret girls are named, and all of the women in Sally’s flat for that matter, so in terms of that I’d say Cabaret just scrapes a pass. C+, the plus being for the refreshing representation of female sexuality.

The scariness of Cabaret:

The last scene of cabaret has Emcee saying farewell to us, and then the camera turning to the reflection of the audience, which instead of being host to free thinking bohemians, is infested with Nazis. Here as a viewer, I realise Hitler has come to full power and is taking over everything and I hope for the safety of Fritz and Natalia, both now married and are facing the struggles of being Jewish in Nazi times.

The last image in Cabaret shows Nazis

The last image in Cabaret shows Nazis

By Katie

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