6 Things You Need to Know About Cabarets

Cabarets are great locations to see theatrical performances. Every city that claims its theatrical scene is worth its salt has numerous cabarets (some of them are world-renowned). London, Paris, New York, and Berlin host many cabarets including Le Moulin Rouge and Feinstein’s.

A common misconception about cabarets is that they are like strip clubs but alas, they’re not! Cabarets offer various forms of theatrical performances like dancing, singing and dramatic performances. They are usually performed in pubs, casinos, and restaurants and it usually caters to adult audiences. 

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So, for you to understand more about this awesome form of entertainment, here are 5 things that you need to know about cabarets…

1. Cabarets Are Invented by Parisians

Parisian Cabaret Performer Circa 1900

Since the 16th century, cabarets are a staple in Paris because many Parisians prefer them as places to dine compared to taverns. They were also meeting places for notable figures like La Fontaine and Jean Racine. Parisian cabarets also gave rise to café-chantant where performances are more planned, and the performers entertain the patrons.

2. Cabarets Offer More Than Just Songs and Dances

The musical performances in cabarets are very entertaining, however, some cabarets also offer poetry readings, juggling, and even stand-up comedy. As a matter of fact, one of the most recognisable cabaret shows in television – is SNL. 

3. 19th Century Composers Were Also “Fans” of Cabarets

Renowned composers Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert organised invite-only parties where they perform their newest songs. Other artists also followed this trend in their own homes or the salon of a rich patron. They may not be called by artists as cabarets (Schumann’s parties were called Schubertiades), their essence is like that of cabarets.

4. Many Performers Flocked to Berlin During the 1920s

After the end of World War I, the Weimar government allowed all forms of expression. So, cabaret artists flocked to Berlin to entertain the troubled Germans. They performed politically themed sketches, torch songs, and portrayed transvestitism. They also innovated and gave rise to other modern theatrical performances. However, when the Nazi government gained power, cabaret performances were suppressed and most of the artists were either dead, in forced exile, or sent to concentration camps. 

5. American Cabarets In the 1910s Were Not Family Friendly

In Europe, cabarets have performances that caters to families and children. However, in the US (especially New York), cabarets fulfilled the fantasies and desires of its patrons. The late hour performances also meant that New Yorkers can enjoy themselves and get away from their responsibilities at home or work.

The intermingling of genders and social classes brought by cabarets was seen by some figures as a bane to America’s morality. This led to the rise of the Prohibition where many cabarets were closed, however, they were replaced by more covert speakeasies. 

6. New York Fought Back and Invented the Supper Clubs

After numerous protests, the Prohibition finally ended in 1933. The timing couldn’t have been better because the Great Depression was still raging on and the public wanted to be entertained. Thus, famous places like The Copacabana, Diamond Horseshoe, and the Cotillion Room gathered all the former cabaret performers (including famous acts like Jimmy Durante and Sophie Tucker) and revitalised the cabaret scene in New York.

Compared to earlier forms of cabarets, supper clubs were more elegant and required patrons to follow a formal dress code. They were also lit by candlelight and had servers wearing tuxedos which attracted many high rolling customers. They may be more extravagant but the performances in these clubs still follow the traditional cabaret style. 

New York’s new cabarets were called supper clubs because a statute was passed which required businesses serving liquor to also offer food to their customers.

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