Berlin remembers fun and frolics at the Scala | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 25.07.2018
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Culture

Berlin remembers fun and frolics at the Scala

Germany's varieté show culture blossomed during the 1920s – but was soon shut down by the Nazi regime a decade later. A commemorative plaque has now been laid at the site of one of its best known venues, the Scala.

Berlin's Culture Senator Klaus Lederer (Left Party) unveiled the commemorative plaque on Tuesday on Martin-Luther-Strasse in Berlin's Schöneberg district where the Scala Theater once stood. Alongside stood art historian Michael Wolffsohn, the grandson of the erstwhile manager of the Scala, Karl Wolffsohn, whose theater was expropriated by the Nazis before he fled to Palestine.

Karl Wolffsohn had opened the Scala Theater in 1919 with the help of several financial backers, most of whom were Jewish. It came to embody the spirit of the so-called Roaring Twenties in Weimar Berlin. 

The world renowned close-harmony ensemble, the Comedian Harmonists, performed regularly at the Scala, as did contortionists, trapeze artists and other circus performers. And then there were the Scala Girls, who made sure that dissipation was the only thing on male patrons' minds.

Indeed, the Scala symbolized the legendary hedonism of the Weimar years ahead of the darkest chapter of German history.

Read moreIn Berlin, life is still a cabaret

dancing girls lift up their legs (picture-alliance/akg-images)

Long legs, short skirts: an image of the Scala Girls taken in 1928

A dimly-lit circus show                                                      

The varieté show genre had already arrived in German in the late 19th century, the cabaret format in part inspired by the infamous can-can in Paris' Moulin Rouge. But it took another quarter of a century of varieté for the stage concept to become a peculiarly Germany institution.

It was a revue show with something for everyone — a mixed bag filled with circus acts, dance number, theatrics, comedy, music and much more, always presented in dimly lit rooms. Sometimes it would be more of a dinner theater set-up, with food and wine an important part of the experience.

Berlin boasted several such spaces during the 1920s; in addition to the Scala, there were venues such as the Plaza, the Wintergarten and the Friedrichstadtpalast. But other cities certainly knew how to compete: Düsseldorf had its Apollo Theater, Bremen the Astoria and Hamburg the Hansa.

Some of these theaters have undergone a revival in the past few decades, opening new venues and featuring world-class varieté acts. Others, like the Scala, are confined to the history books.

tla,ss/sb (with dpa)

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