Back to CurtainUp Main Page
The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp Book Review
Cabaret: The Illustrated Book and Lyrics

by Elyse Sommer

Our review of the show. . . and second thoughts on that review
Cabaret, the CD with original cast of the 1998 revival
to order book Cabaret: The Illustrated Book and Lyrics

For collectors of theater memorabilia or anyone looking for a handsome gift for a musical theater buff, nothing beats some of the gorgeously produced "memoirs" featuring details about the show's cast and creative team, the script and lyrics and various background snippets. Cabaret: The Illustrated Book and Lyrics is the latest case in point. Like the 1998 revival, it's quite a show -- a book that looks good, feels luxurious to the hand , and with enough jump-off-the-page four-color illustrations to bring back memories of songs and scenes. Details that melded into the overall impression as you watched the show, are in fact brought into sharper focus as you turn the pages at a more leisurely browser's pace.

Take William Ivey Log's costumes. The book made me aware of the subtle color coordination of Clifford's and Ernst's tweedy outfits during their first meeting on the train to Berlin; also the wonderful crocheted cardigan worn by Fraulein Schneider. The section towards the end of the book in which Long describes creating the show wardrobe as a process of "deconstruction" is at once fun and enlightning. His remarks are accompanied by illustrations of Natasha Richardson's signature corset and Allan Cumming's trademark harness. Having just seen Amy's View the segment on Richardson made a particularly strong impression. It includes a photo of Judi Dench in that play which Richardson kept in her dressing room during her stint as Sally Bowles

With so many rich images to choose from, the final selection of cast and production shots is praiseworthy not only for the quality as for capturing the heart of the show.

Excerpts from the diary kept by Allan Cummings during the show's preparation period (originally published in a magazine in his native Scotland) add a nice editorial touch. It would be nice if actors, directors and playwrights kept records like this for future book memoirs of this type.

Since this is a book, my review wouldn't be complete without mention of designer Timothy Shaner. I particularly like the way he has made smart use of typography to instantly identify various elements -- for example, spoken text is in upper and lower case and lyrics in upper case.

It would be nice to read through these pages with a CD of the original cast album running. Unfortunately, this is not included in a pocket at the back of the book (as some computer manuals package in CDs) so you'll have to order it separately (Cabaret, the CD ) to transform this into a really deluxe gift.

Cabaret: The Illustrated Book and Lyrics
by Joe Masteroff, John Kander, Fred Ebb
Editor: Linda Sunshine
Production photographs: Joan Marcus
Backstage photographs: Rivka
Hardcover - 128 pages, published May 1999 by Newmarket Press
order here

Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from

Back to CurtainUp Main Page

© Elyse Sommer, May 1999