Burstein, Esparza, Kuhn, and Rose Headline Launch of
Encores! Off-Center Series: The Cradle Will Rock July 10-13
By: Ellis Nassour
Marc Blitzstein’s powerful musical political satire The Cradle Will Rock, the inaugural show of City Center’s Encores! Off-Center series plays five performances, beginning Wednesday through July 13 at City Center. The 14-strong cast includes Danny Burstein, Raúl Esparza, Peter Friedman, Judy Kuhn, David Margulies, Martin Moran, Michael Park, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Anika Noni Rose.
The Cradle Will Rock, with music, lyrics, and book by Marc Blitzstein, is an extraordinary piece of theater history. Set against the backdrop of a steel strike and peopled with fat-cat capitalists, brutal policemen, heroic union organizers, and a warm-hearted prostitute, Blitzstein’s 1937 musical was called "a hymn to the proletariat." His politics ran to the hard left, and he believed the show, developed with funds from the WPA’s Federal Theater Project, would incite a revolution. It came close.
The government sent armed guards to occupy and padlock the theatre. Director, the implacable Orson Wells vowed the show would go on. With borrowed money and actors [who included Broadway vets John Adair, Blanche Collins, Howard Da Silva, Will Geer (Grandpa, The Waltons), and Le Roi Operti] and the composer, who also co-starred, so passionate that they stood in the audience and performed from their seats when forbidden to take the stage. In addition, hundreds marched through the streets on what was to be the opening night and, the first instance of guerilla theater, created make-shift theater.
Four days later, The Cradle Will Rock finally opened Off-Broadway; and on Broadway in January, 1938, where it ran 108 performances. It had a short-lived revival in December, 1947.
Directing the Off-Center production is Sam Gold (recent Picnic revival, Seminar; Off-Broadway revival, Look Back in Anger). Chris Fenwick is music director, with Chase Brock choreographing. Four-time Tony nominee and two-time Drama Desk winner Jeanine Tesori is Off-Center artistic director.
The Lobby Project, pre-performance events free to ticket holders, features these Cradle Will Rock events: July 11, 6:45 P.M. – Gold, Amy Herzog, and Oskar Eustis discuss how personal politics impacts art; July 12, 7:15 P.M . – Performance and discussion; July 13, 1:15 P.M. – Blitzstein Rarities, performed by Tesori; and July 13, 7:15 P.M. – The Legend of The Cradle Will Rock, in Blitzstein and Houseman’s own words."
Off-Center’s upcoming productions: July 17, Sutton Foster stars in Tesori and Brian Crawley’s 1997 Violet; and July 24-27, Nancy Ford and Gretchen Cryer’s 1978 I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.
City Center has received support for Encores! Off-Center from Stacey and Eric Mindich, Stacy Bash-Polley, Alec Stais and Elissa Burke, and Larry Hirschorn and Melissa Posen.
In keeping with City Center’s founding mission to make the arts accessible, tickets are $25. Purchase at the City Center box office, online at www.NYCityCenter.org, or by calling CityTix, (212) 581-1212.
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