Review Roundup: What Did Critics Say About THE CRADLE WILL ROCK?

The Cradle Will Rock

Classic Stage Company presents Marc Blitzstein's allegorical play in music The Cradle Will Rock, directed by John Doyle, March 21 - May 19, 2019.

The cast features Ken Barnett ("Mozart in the Jungle," Fun Home) as Editor Daily, Eddie Cooper (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, This Ain't No Disco) as Junior Mister, Benjamin Eakeley (She Loves Me, Cabaret) as Reverend Salvation, Tony Award nominee David Garrison (Dead Poets Society, The Visit) as Mr. Mister, Ian Lowe (Murder for Two, Nikolai and the Others) as Yasha, Kara Mikula (Allegro, White Christmas) as Sister Mister, Olivier Award winner Lara Pulver (Gypsy in London, "Sherlock") as Moll, Sally Ann Triplett( Sweeney Todd at Barrow Street, The Last Ship) as Mrs. Mister, Rema Webb (The Color Purple, Violet) as Ella, and Tony Award nominee Tony Yazbeck (On The Town, Prince of Broadway) as Larry Foreman.

A Depression-era indictment of rampant capitalism told almost entirely in song, The Cradle Will Rock maintains a twinkle in its eye while bearing sharp fangs. The 1937 premiere of this story of American class tensions-directed by Orson Welles-was famously shut down on the eve of opening night by federal authorities over so-called "budget cuts," commonly considered a thin veil for fears of the play's pro-labor stance. The artists involved rebelliously circumvented its cancellation, making for one of the most memorable stories in 20th Century Theater history.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: For Classic Stage Company's sturdy revival, director/set designer John Doyle abstains from his frequent practice of stripping down the texts of deceased authors, as he did with the company's productions of ALLEGRO and CARMEN JONES, allowing Blitzstein's work to speak for itself.

Jesse Green, The New York Times: What makes it all bearable, and can sometimes make it beautiful, is the score, in which pastiche passages that mock the bad guys alternate with jagged, yearning arias that ennoble the others. (If it sounds like Leonard Bernstein, that's because Bernstein was a Blitzstein protégé.) In both modes, the music is more expressive than the lyrics, which seem to have been written for a pamphlet.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: But artistic director John Doyle, who directed a killer Arturo Ui last fall, seems to be approaching his current production by rote. It's a plodding revival of Marc Blitzstein's 1937 music-play The Cradle Will Rock, and it finds the director retreading much of the ground covered by Uibut with none of Ui's ferocity or flair. There's a fine line between a distinctive directorial signature and a bag of tricks, and with The Cradle Will Rock -already a blunt instrument of agitprop that requires lots of sharpening if it's really going to sing or sting - Doyle seems, more than anything else, to be tired, resorting to his tool belt without honing the tools.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Doyle's patented minimalist approach worked best for Oscar Hammerstein II's take on Bizet; the narrative is stronger and more linear in "Carmen Jones." Brecht's "Arturo Ui" and Blitzstein's "Cradle" aren't only more episodic; the scenes are piled on top of each other, the connective tissue of a story being much less obvious. When the actors aren't switching roles, they're busy rearranging the stage furniture, which, in the case of "Cradle," amounts to a few barrels.

Donna Herman, New York Theatre Guide: Doyle has assembled a small but talented cast who all manage to nimbly navigate their multiple roles. The spare set using metal barrels moved around in different configurations in tandem with the Brechtian announcements of scene are enough to establish place. The costumes turn out to be the only problem here. With almost everyone dressed in some form of overalls or factory worker garb, the early scene in the jail before you understand that everyone will have multiple roles is very confusing. Why is everyone in The Liberty Committee saying that the character Moll (Lara Pulver) is beneath them?

Michael Sommers, New York Stage Review: Accordingly, The Cradle Will Rock seems like an ideal project for John Doyle, a director who made his initial mark in New York by effectively interpreting musicals with bare-bones visuals and few musicians. Doyle currently is the artistic director of Classic Stage Company, so one walks into its theater for his rendition of this musical anticipating that likely he will make the dramatic most of stark circumstances. But no. This is The Cradle Will Rock staged with some scenery, the actors in costume, and Doyle not at all at his considerable best. Opening on Wednesday, the result is less than impressive.

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: John Doyle and his Classic Stage Company brightened the musical theater scene last summer with a dynamic production of the long-dormant Carmen Jones. They now turn their attention to Marc Blitzstein's 1937 The Cradle Will Rock, which was written several years earlier but is in every aspect miles away from Carmen Jones. The CSC Cradle doesn't rock quite so well, but it is an admirable presentation of an historically important musical. Doyle and his denizens blow the accumulated dust off the piece, bringing out the strengths in this most uncompromising work.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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