The scene is a sleazy nightclub in Berlin as the 20s are drawing to a close. Cliff Bradshaw, a young American writer, and Ernst Ludwig, a German, strike up a friendship on a train. Ernst gives Cliff an address in Berlin where he will find a room. Cliff takes this advice and Fraulein Schneider, a vivacious sixty-year old, lets him have a room very cheaply.
Cliff, at the Kit Kat Club, meets an English girl, Sally Bowles, who is working there as a singer and hostess. Next day, as Cliff is giving Ernst an English lesson, Sally arrives with all her luggage and moves in.
Ernst comes to ask Cliff to collect something for him from Paris; he will pay well for the service. Cliff knows that this will involve smuggling currency, but agrees to go. Ernst's fee will be useful now that Cliff and Sally are to be married. Fraulein Schneider and her admirer, a Jewish greengrocer named Herr Schultz, also decide to become engaged and a celebration party is held in Her Schultz shop. In the middle of the festivities Ernst arrives wearing a Nazi armband. Cliff realises that his Paris errand was on behalf of the Nazi party and refuses Ernst's payment, but Sally accepts it.
At Cliff's flat Sally gets ready to go back to work at the Kit Kat Klub. Cliff determines that they will leave for America but that evening he calls at the Klub and finds Sally there. He is furious, and when Ernst approaches him to perform another errand Cliff knocks him down. Sally sings her big number "Come to the Cabaret". Next morning Cliff is alone, packing to go home. Schultz comes into say he is moving to another part of Berlin. Sally arrives looking ill and without her fur coat; she has sold it to a doctor who has performed an abortion to get rid of her baby. She tells Cliff she is not going to America with him. Leaving Berlin on the train, Cliff recalls the events of his life there. The Master of Ceremonies reminds the audience that he promised that they would forget their troubles.
- From The Guide to Musical Theatre