AskDefine | Define cabaret

Dictionary Definition



1 a spot that is open late at night and that provides entertainment (as singers or dancers) as well as dancing and food and drink; "don't expect a good meal at a cabaret"; "the gossip columnist got his information by visiting nightclubs every night"; "he played the drums at a jazz club" [syn: nightclub, club, nightspot]
2 a series of acts at a night club [syn: floorshow, floor show]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old French, 'wooden structure, inn'.


  1. Live entertainment held in a restaurant or nightclub.
  2. The nightclub or restaurant where such entertainment is held.


Extensive Definition

Cabaret is a form of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue — a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables (often dining or drinking) watching the performance. The venue itself can also be called a "cabaret." The turn of the 20th century introduced a revolutionized cabaret culture. Performers included Josephine Baker and Brazilian drag performer João Francisco dos Santos (aka Madame Satã). Cabaret performances could range from political satire to light entertainment, each being introduced by a master of ceremonies, or MC.
The term is a French word for the taprooms or cafés where this form of entertainment was born, as a more artistic type of café-chantant. It is derived from Middle Dutch cabret, through Old North French camberette, from Late Latin camera. It essentially means "small room."
Cabaret also refers to a Mediterranean-style brothel — a bar with tables and women who mingle with and entertain the clientele. Traditionally these establishments can also feature some form of stage entertainment: often singers & dancers — the bawdiness of which varies with the quality of the establishment. It is the classier, more sophisticated cabaret that eventually engendered the type of establishment and art form that is the subject of the remainder of this article.

French cabaret

There is evidence of cabarets as early as February 1789 in the Cahier de Dolences.
The first cabaret was opened in 1881 in Montmartre, Paris: Rodolphe Salís' "cabaret artistique." Shortly after it was founded, it was renamed Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat). It became a locale in which up-and-coming cabaret artists could try their new acts in front of their peers before they were acted in front of an audience. The place was a great success, visited by important people of that time such as Alphonse Allais, Jean Richepin, Aristide Bruant, and people from all walks of life: women of high society, tourists, bankers, doctors, journalists, etc. The Chat Noir was a place where they could get away from work. In 1887, the cabaret was closed due to the bad economic situation that made amusements of this kind seem vulgar.
The Moulin Rouge, built in 1889 in the red-light district of Pigalle near Montmartre, is famous for the large red imitation windmill on its roof. Notable performers at the Moulin Rouge included La Goulue, Yvette Guilbert, Jane Avril, Mistinguett, and Le Pétomane. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted numerous pictures and scenes of night life there.
The Folies-Bergère continued to attract a large number of people until the start of the 20th century, even though it was more expensive than other cabarets. People felt comfortable at the cabaret: They did not have to take off their hat, could talk, eat, and smoke when they wanted to, etc. They did not have to stick to the usual rules of society.
At the Folies-Bergère, as in many cafés-concerts, there were a variety of acts: singers, dancers, jugglers, clowns, and sensations such as the Birmane family, all of whom had beards. Audiences were attracted by the danger of the circus acts (sometimes tamers were killed by their lions), but what happened on stage was not the only entertainment. Often patrons watched others, strolled around, and met friends or prostitutes. At the start of the 20th century, as war approached, prices rose further and the cabaret became a place for the rich.
Le Lido, on the Champs-Elysées has been a venue of the finest shows with the most famous names since 1946 including Laurel & Hardy, Shirley MacLaine, Elton John, Marlene Dietrich, and Noel Coward among them.

German-speaking cabaret

Twenty years later, Ernst von Wolzogen founded the first German cabaret, later known as Buntes Theater (colourful theatre). All forms of public criticism were banned by a censor on theatres in the German Empire, however. This was lifted at the end of the First World War, allowing the cabaret artists to deal with social themes and political developments of the time. This meant that German cabaret really began to blossom in the 1920s and 1930s, bringing forth all kinds of new cabaret artists, such as Werner Finck at the Katakombe, Karl Valentin at the Wien-München, and Claire Waldoff. Some of their texts were written by great literary figures such as Kurt Tucholsky, Erich Kästner, and Klaus Mann.
When the Nazi party came to power in 1933, they started to repress this intellectual criticism of the times. Cabaret in Germany was hit badly. (Bob Fosse's film, Cabaret (1972), based on the Christopher Isherwood novel, Goodbye to Berlin, deals with this period.) In 1935 Werner Finck was briefly imprisoned and sent to a concentration camp; at the end of that year Kurt Tucholsky committed suicide; and nearly all German-speaking cabaret artists fled into exile in Switzerland, France, Scandinavia, or the USA.
What remained in Germany was a state-controlled cabaret where jokes were told or the people were encouraged to keep their chins up.
When the war ended, the occupying powers ensured that the cabarets portrayed the horrors of the Nazi regime. Soon, various cabarets were also dealing with the government, the Cold War and the Wirtschaftswunder: the Tol(l)leranten in Mainz, the Kom(m)ödchen in Düsseldorf and the Münchner Lach- und Schießgesellschaft in Munich. These were followed in the 1950s by television cabaret.
In the DDR, the first state cabaret was opened in 1953, Berlin's Die Distel. It was censored and did not criticise the state (1954: Die Pfeffermühle in Leipzig).
In the 1960s, West German cabaret was centred around Düsseldorf, Munich, and Berlin. At the end of the decade, the students' movement of May 1968 split opinion on the genre as some old cabaret artists were booed off the stage for being part of the old establishment. In the 1970s, new forms of cabaret developed, such as the television show Notizen aus der Provinz (Notes from the Sticks). At the end of the 1980s, political cabaret was an important part of social criticism, with a minor boom at the time of German reunification. In eastern Germany, cabarets had been growing more and more daring in their criticism of politicians in the time leading up to 1989. After reunification, new social problems, such as mass unemployment, the privatisation of companies, and rapid changes in society, meant that cabarets rose in number. Dresden, for example, gained two new cabarets alongside the popular Herkuleskeule.
In the 1990s and at the start of the new millennium, the television and film comedy boom and a lessening of public interest in politics meant that television cabaret audiences in Germany dropped.

Dutch-speaking Cabaret

In the Netherlands cabaret is the name for a popular comedy-form that evolved out of the earlier traditional cabaret, much like the German-speaking cabaret. Whereas interest in the German form faded in the 1990s, the Dutch Cabaret stayed strong and actually grew explosively in those years. Unlike Stand-up comedy this Dutch form usually has more of a storyline throughout the performance. Often it is a mixture of comedy with theater and like German-speaking cabaret it can be politically engaged. Famous are the new year's eve performances by Dutch cabaretiers, which are well watched on television. In Belgium, the Flemish Geert Hoste and Raf Coppens have performed these kind of shows as well.
Some famous Dutch cabaretiers:

American Cabaret

In the United States, cabaret diverged into several different and distinct styles of performance mostly due to the influence of Jazz Music. Chicago cabaret focused intensely on the larger band ensembles and reached its zenith in the speakeasies, and steakhouses (like The Palm) of the Prohibition Era.
New York cabaret never developed along the darkly political lines of its European counterparts, but did feature a great deal of social commentary. When New York cabarets featured jazz, they tended to focus on famous vocalists like Eartha Kitt and Hildegarde rather than instrumental musicians.
Cabaret in the United States began to disappear in the sixties, due to the rising popularity of rock concert shows and television variety shows. The art form itself still survives vestigially in two popular entertainment formats: Stand-up comedy and the dark comic performances that may still be seen in the drag show and camp performances in the nation's GLBT community.
Cabaret is currently undergoing a renaissance of sorts in the United States as new generations of performers reinterpret the old forms in both music (see Dark Cabaret below) and theatre.
In early 2005 a group of New York City-based musicians and performers, including the actor Ian Buchanan, the rock singer Melissa Auf der Maur and singer and model Karen Elson launched a series of cabaret performances under the name The Citizens Band. Performing sporadically in downtown Manhattan and in Los Angeles, they claim to have political motivation and describe themselves on their website as "a sexy, raucous collaborative cabaret troupe." The Citizens Band received media coverage from the likes of The New Yorker and The New York Times as well as many fashion magazines who trumpeted the return of "cabaret cool" in lush photo spreads.
In 2000, the cabaret variety show, [Le Scandal Cabaret] opened at the Cutting Room. The show mixes burlesque, live music, circus acts, and cabaret singers. New York Magazine called Le Scandal, "the rock star of the NY burlesque scene." The show is the brain child of Bonnie Dunn, an international cabaret and burlesque performer and producer.
The Boston duo The Dresden Dolls (2000—present) describes their genre of music and performance as "Brechtian Punk Cabaret".
cabaret in Asturian: Cabaré
cabaret in Bavarian: Kabarett
cabaret in Catalan: Varietats
cabaret in Czech: Kabaret
cabaret in Danish: Kabaret
cabaret in German: Kabarett
cabaret in Esperanto: Kabaredo
cabaret in Spanish: Cabaret
cabaret in Persian: کاباره
cabaret in Finnish: Kabaree
cabaret in French: Cabaret
cabaret in Hebrew: קברט
cabaret in Indonesian: Kabaret
cabaret in Italian: Cabaret (spettacolo)
cabaret in Japanese: キャバレー
cabaret in Latin: Cabaret
cabaret in Macedonian: Кабаре
cabaret in Dutch: Cabaret (kleinkunst)
cabaret in Norwegian: Kabaret
cabaret in Polish: Kabaret
cabaret in Portuguese: Cabaré
cabaret in Russian: Кабаре
cabaret in Slovak: Kabaret
cabaret in Slovenian: Kabaret
cabaret in Swedish: Kabaré
cabaret in Turkish: Kabare
cabaret in Ukrainian: Кабаре
cabaret in Chinese: 卡巴萊

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Elizabethan theater, Globe Theatre, Greek theater, alehouse, amphitheater, amusement, amusement park, arena theater, auditorium, ballroom, bar, barrel house, barroom, beer garden, beer parlor, bistro, blind tiger, cafe, cafe chantant, cafe dansant, casino, circle theater, club, cocktail lounge, concert hall, dance floor, dance hall, dancing pavilion, dive, dramshop, drinking saloon, entertainment, entertainment industry, floor show, fun-fair, gin mill, groggery, grogshop, hall, honky-tonk, house, juke joint, little theater, local, music hall, night spot, nightclub, nitery, opera, opera house, outdoor theater, playhouse, pothouse, pub, public, public house, rathskeller, resort, roadhouse, rumshop, saloon, saloon bar, show, show biz, show business, showboat, speakeasy, taproom, tavern, theater, theater-in-the-round, theatron, wine shop
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