Ask A Cabaret Question At McElrath Cabaret–Join Us Today!

One of the giants of cabaret--Julie Wilson!

Julie Wilson’s website for more information about this wonderful performer!


Wednesday is the day of the week when we at McElrath Cabaret will post a cabaret question for the consideration of our readers. It will have something to do with cabaret, in all its many aspects. The question may take the form of a poll, to which we encourage you to respond, or it may be a question posed to the cabaret community, to which you can leave your response in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

We encourage you to send us any cabaret questions that you have that you would like us to pose to the group! You can leave a question in the comments section below, or you can email it to us at kjandathenacabaret [at] Just fill in the [at] with the @ symbol—we need to foil the spam bots, don’cha know.

Today’s question is this:  How do you define the term “cabaret”?

For those new to cabaret performance, when you say that you are a cabaret performer, often the first impression that comes into the mind of a person new to the concept is the musical entitled Cabaret.  When I put the term into a search engine, the first four results are for the Broadway musical, for example.  Having our audience clearly understand what it is that we do is imperative in helping us attract an audience–if they don’t understand what we do, and can’t connect with it in some way, then chances are they won’t risk paying a cover charge and minimum to come see the show.

Here are some definitions of cabaret:

1.  The Mirriam-Webster online dictionary defines cabaret as: ” . . . 1.  a shop selling wines and liquors; 2a:  a restaurant serving liquor and providing entertainment (as by singers or dancers) . . . b:  the show provided at a cabaret.”


2.  Collins English Dictionary defines cabaret as:  ”a floor show of dancing, singing, or other light entertainment at a nightclub or restaurant.”


3. Cabaret West has a page on their website entitled “What is Cabaret?“:  This page has several links to comments that cabaret performers have made defining the term cabaret.  From here we learn that:


Andrea Marcovicci defines cabaret as ” . . . an intensely personal evening of song and stories, delivered in a simple, honest way in an intimate space that shatters the fourth wall. The audience participates in a direct, emotional conversation with the artist and leaves feeling contacted and personally touched.”


4. Bob Harrington, author posthumously of The Cabaret Artist’s Handbook (edited by Sherry Eaker), defines cabaret:


 as representing ” . . .  in cabaret, audience rapport [with the performer] is the bottom line (15)”
“. . . .  the frontier of expression through entertainment, the ‘no-man’s-land’ where talent and skill meet an open-minded audience with no support mechanisms other than those the performer brings to the performance and erects on the spot (16)”
” . . . . it’s a unique performance style designed to engage the audience intimately in the performance itself, be it comedy, singing, or a combination of both (16).”

So what say you–how do you define Cabaret?  Let us know down in the comments–we always look forward to hearing from our readers!

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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