Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Muriello, John R

First Committee Member

Muriello, John

Second Committee Member

Berkowitz, Daniel

Third Committee Member

Eberle-Fink, Katherine

Fourth Committee Member

Getz, Christine

Fifth Committee Member

Jones, Susan

Sixth Committee Member

Swanson, Stephen


Cabaret is one of America's most unusual forms of art and entertainment as it juxtaposes and creatively interconnects comedy, song, dance, theatre, speech, and performance art, much like that of its bigger sister, American musical theatre. Many elements of the American musical are shared by cabaret, however, cabaret is unique since it generally occurs in more intimate (and sometimes more unusual) performance venues, such as restaurants, nightclubs, lobbies, halls, small theatres and private homes. With close proximity to the performer(s), cabaret audiences are often seated at tables where they eat and/or drink while an interlocutor (an interactive Emcee, M.C. or Master of Ceremonies) guides them through the performance. Along with the creative and engaging interaction of an interlocutor, the intimate venue of a cabaret performance creates a forum that allows and encourages the performers' energy to combine with the audience's as the "theatrical fourth wall" is constantly broken through. The synergistic energy generated by audience and performers creates an entirely new and unique performance phenomena, which is one of the most exciting, appealing and exceptionally unique qualities of cabaret.

Since a small body of scholarship exists on American cabaret as a unique genre, this study provides a thorough analysis and detailed dissection of cabaret both historically and musically.

Discussed first is cabaret's origins, life and development by way of a historical narrative gleaned from existing resources on cabaret. Also tied into this narrative is information on other types of performance and music closely related to cabaret, such as Victorian music halls, concert saloons, dance halls, speakeasies, nightclubs and supper clubs, burlesque, vaudeville, and Tin Pan Alley. Next, this essay identifies and explores the "physical" elements that compose cabaret such as the framework of songs, the connective fabric of interlocking dialogue, songs, and musical numbers, the final look of the performance and the overall sound-blend of the performance. The essay progresses into a more detailed exploration of cabaret by identifying and discussing its "visceral" elements such as basic human nature and intimate contact via the human voice. Likewise, musical examples are presented that illustrate musical elements such as the "composer's hook," elicitation of body movement, patter songs and types of accompaniments supportive of the melody. Finally, musical patterns are presented that are analogous to motion, conflict, resolution and circular arcs of context such as syncopated patterns, dotted rhythms, swinging eighth notes, tied-note figures over bar lines, "chromatic toggling" and repeated-against-syncopated patterns. Consequently, all these musical elements in cabaret literature prompt human beings into movement in all three areas of body, mind and spirit.

This essay then identifies and delineates several possible types and combinations of cabaret shows, such as formal, improvisational, musical revue, vaudeville-style, stand-up comedy, karaoke, female/male impersonator (drag show), "streetmosphere," flash mob, piano bar/lounge, open-mic., concert-style, aleatory and a mixture of any and all types.

Finally, the most important contribution to cabaret scholarship is this essay's comprehensive resource on how to create and develop a cabaret show with specific suggestions for themes, music, underscoring, and scripted dialogue. In addition, this essay presents an example of an entire original cabaret show in order to clarify the findings of this study, and encourage further research, creation and composition, practice and prolongation of the genre of American cabaret.


American, Cabaret, Music, Songbook, Voice


viii, 323 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 318-323).


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Copyright © 2013 Eugene Joseph De Luca

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