'Cabaret' cast reunites for 40th anniversary

Jan. 30, 2013 at 9:52 AM ET

The big-screen musical "Cabaret" dominated the 1973 Academy Awards with 10 nominations and 8 wins, including best actress for Liza Minnelli, best supporting actor for Joel Grey and the best director Oscar for Bob Fosse. For fans of the flim, those accolades came as no surprise. According to the stars, it was more of a surprise that the movie was ever made.

The racy story of an unconventional love-triangle set in a pre-war German nightclub wasn't exactly box-office safe, as castmembers Minnelli, Grey, Michael York and Marisa Berenson recalled during a Wednesday morning reunion on TODAY.

"I could hear people whispering, 'Well, how are we going to advertise it? The nifty Nazi follies?'" Minnelli remembered.

After all, the film didn't exactly make for lighthearted fare.

"I would say that’s it's probably darker than it is light," Grey said. "The entire idea of this film and the story is dark, and the fact that we get a laugh or two here or there is like gold."

Especially during a time when much of the subject matter wasn't mainstream material -- such as the fact the men in the love-triangle at the center of the story were pursuing each other, as well as Minnelli's character.

"It was (a) very repressed (time)," York explained. "People didn't talk about it, certainly not in the movies. This gentleman (my character) was bisexual. Now, of course, it seems so harmless. … This was groundbreaking. I think everyone would agree Fosse … this extraordinary man had a vision."

Vision and freedom -- Minnelli said the studio "left Bob Fosse alone and that was one of the best things they could have done."

But Fosse didn't have quite as much freedom as he would have liked. The risqué film would have been far more revealing where Minnelli's Sally Bowles was concerned had the director fully had his way.

"He was provocative from the get-go," the actress recalled. "He said, 'Well, how do you feel about exposing yourself? I said, 'How do you feel about exposing yourself?' We started to laugh. … I said, 'I don't think it's necessary, do you?' He said, 'I sort of want to. Let me think about it.' And then he didn't do it, which was wonderful.

See more from the reunited cast in the clips above, and then watch them in their "Cabaret" heyday on Feb. 5, when a restored version of the film is released on Blu-ray and DVD.

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