Audiences who have seen STC’s current production of Measure for Measure have been buzzing about the preshow. As audience members enter the Lansburgh Theatre to find their seats, they are confronted by a smoke-filled cabaret in full swing. German expletives and exhortations fill the air. Powders are sniffed and cigarettes are smoked. Makeup-caked madams stalk the aisles of the theatre, offering patrons a chance to purchase some (imaginary) flesh.
One of the most striking—and titillating—features of the cabaret are the original songs, performed (in German) by the cast. They range in subject matter from the divine to the carnal, featuring scantily clad dancers performing burlesque acts and lyrics that double as blasphemous puns and dirty jokes.
The idea of composing original music and lyrics, and translating them into German (by yours truly, with grammatical help from STC’s Swiss receptionist, Ursula David), came early in the process of working on the show. I talked to composer Adam Wernick about how he translated director Jonathan Munby’s concept into thrilling—and vintage—musical theatre. Here are the lyrics, in German and English translation, with Adam’s notes (warning: some of the lyrics may contain profanity or risqué situations):