Cabaret 2024 Musical Ending Explained

By Gillian Blum Posted:
Cabaret, Eddie Redmayne

Elusive by nature, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club is not exactly the Cabaret audiences are used to, and its ending reflects that.

At its barest of bones, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club starring Eddie Redmayne tells the same story as the four Broadway productions of the show before it. A writer checks into a Berlin boarding house, meets and becomes intimately involved with a tormented Cabaret singer, and watches as the city falls victim to the atrocities of World War II.

Beyond this basic skeleton, though, the 2024 take is not the Cabaret theatergoers are familiar with. Audiences are fully immersed in the story being told on the circular center stage, with the August Wilson Theatre having been transformed into the nightclub from the show itself.

How Does Cabaret 2024 End?

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club uses its signature shock value to bring a message to the conclusion of the show that audiences familiar with Cabaret might not expect.

Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, wearing a wool-like tank top, bow choker, and leather bottoms. He wears black gloves, and is moving to put a turquoise party hat on his head.
Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

In all versions of the show, the Emcee (Eddie Redmayne in 2024) speaks directly to the audience over the course of several interludes throughout the musical. Sometimes he moves the story along, akin to a narrator, sometimes he is part of the story, sometimes he is simply commenting on the story or its setting at large.

Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, wearing a red-and-white clown costume.
Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

The Emcee has been portrayed differently over the years, which will be discussed in more depth later. But at his core, the Emcee is always a unique enigma. He does not fit into any sort of box or label, he is in the show but he exists outside of it, he is crazy but he is also an intelligent guide.

As it repeatedly says on the revival's website, the Kit Kat Club is somewhere to "Relax. Loosen up. Be yourself." So, as Berlin is falling to the Nazi regime, the Emcee exists inside of the club that allows others to escape the chaos of the outside world.

Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, wearing a bedazzled black, leather outfit. It appears to be a dress. He is surrounded by ensemble members in Showgirl attire made with fringe.
Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

In 2024, the Emcee's intense individuality is portrayed in many ways, including the Emcee's costumes (and those of the ensemble at large). Throughout the show, he wears elaborate, often androgynous, costumes that match the strange, almost Eldritch-like way Redmayne portrays the character.

Gayle Rankin and Eddie Redmayne in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club. They both wear gray sports coats, and Redmayne has a visible necktie.
Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

That is, until the show's finale, wherein the Emcee bids the audience auf Wiedersehen dressed in a plain, gray suit.

In fact, throughout the show, more and more of the ensemble and cast start replacing their loud, colorful, extravagant costumes with this identical gray suit, ending the show all wearing the same, dull outfit.

2024 Cabaret Finale Meaning + Changes Explained

At its core, Cabaret is a show about the dangers of political ignorance or indifference. Sally Bowles quite literally chooses to ignore the outside world, in favor of losing herself to drugs and alcohol in a desperate attempt at escapism.

The Emcee's role in that messaging differs from production to production. In the original Broadway version from 1966, Joel Grey's Emcee represented the city of Berlin itself, his malevolence most obvious in the dark conclusion.

When Sam Mendes re-imagined the show, first in London in 1993 and then on Broadway, with Alan Cumming taking on the role of the Emcee, the character's metaphorical significance was drastically changed. Rather than being the perpetrator, the Emcee represented the victim.

Instead of through extravagant costumes like in 2024, Cumming's Emcee displays his uniqueness through unabashed sexuality. He spends the show essentially seducing the audience and wearing revealing costumes, seemingly without shame.

This version ended with the Emcee taking off an overcoat to reveal a striped concentration camp uniform, with badges denoting him as Jewish, Communist and/or Socialist, and part of the LGBTQ+ community. This was done in an effort to highlight the tragedy faced by the victims of the Holocaust — people like the Emcee who were perceived as "different" in some form or another.

In the 2024 Broadway revival (another reimagining that originated in London, this time by director Rebecca Frecknall in 2021), the Emcee's role in the show's messaging has changed once again.

Redmayne explained to the Washington Post that in playing the Emcee, he shows that even the most silly and out there people "can then shape-shift their way into being something that is serious and is quite dangerous:"

“It was intriguing to me that those people that perhaps you don’t take seriously can then shape-shift their way into being something that is serious and is quite dangerous.”

Throughout the show, there was this idea that no matter what is going on in the outside world, within the Kit Kat Club, "life is beautiful." Despite the spread of Nazi ideology, the Kit Kat Club remains a place where people can express their individuality. The Emcee's (and ensemble's) extravagant costumes demonstrate this.

The gray suits represent the cracks in this fierce escapism, with the darkness and chaos of the crumbling city around them slowly infiltrating the Kit Kat Club. But whereas the ensemble is seemingly forced to conform, the Emcee just shifts into a new role, one that perpetuates this loss of individuality.

Talking to the Washington Post, Redmayne described this new role as the Emcee "being puppeteer, conductor, perpetrator," and not "a victim:"

"Individuality was stripped away as fascism rose and people had to become more homogenized ... So the idea, therefore, of our Emcee as being puppeteer, conductor, perpetrator — rather than the version of the Emcee as a victim — was important."

The Kit Kat Club could not remain somewhere to escape to, it was swallowed up by the chaos many characters hoped it would protect them from. Those who saw the club as refuge, a place to be their unconditional selves, lost the individuality they once proudly demonstrated within the Kit Kat Club's walls.

And the Emcee simply embraced it, just as he had previously embraced the individualistic culture the Kit Kat Club had once been home to.

Why Did Cabaret Change Its Ending?

The 2024 revival of Cabaret is a drastic re-imagining of how the musical can convey its story most effectively.

By immersing the audience in the Kit Kat Club, the show is able to reinforce the feelings of escapism the club offers, before stripping it away and turning it into another place consumed by Nazi conformism.

For her version of the story, Frecknall wanted to emphasize "it being the ensemble’s tragedy," not the Emcee's. Part of this, she explained to the Washington Post, is because, Redmayne is a "a cis, White, beautiful Aryan man," and so "would have been okay" in the eyes of the Nazis.

Despite the Emcee being the pinnacle of individuality throughout the show, when push came to shove, he could adapt and become the Nazi ideal. So many others did not, and those were the people whose story Fracknell wanted to highlight:

"“Productions often land on the tragedy of the Emcee, which works really successfully ... But I was interested in actually getting to the end and it being the ensemble’s tragedy. You know, Eddie would have been okay. Eddie is a cis, White, beautiful Aryan man. I thought it was interesting just really acknowledging that and going, 'Actually, you would walk out of this and these people wouldn’t.'"

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club is now playing at the August Wilson Theatre.

- About The Author: Gillian Blum

Gillian Blum has been a writer at The Direct since 2022, reporting primarily from New York City. Though she covers news from across the entertainment industry, Gillian has a particular focus on Marvel and DC, including comics, movies, and television shows. She also commonly reports on Percy Jackson, Invincible, and other similar franchises.