The Cradle Will Rock (The Musical)
By Marc Blitzstein
Directed by Tony Simotes
Music Direction by Jason M. Bailey
Choreography by Robin Gerchman
Starring Nicholas D’Alessandro, Carlos Ramirez Pereyo
Annie Russell Theatre, Rollins College
Winter Park, FL
Back in 1937, this show caused riots. Today, its equally as important, yet its story of labor fighting management is not nearly as inflammatory. Why? Because labor has largely lost its battle. On a spare stage, a large realistic mural shows the inside of a steel mill. Shirtless workers stir vats of molten steel, faceless and wraith like. In front of the musical is an unprepared stage with racks of clothing and a ghost light. The cast of Cradle was booted from their original space for political reasons, and the show is going to improv its way through tonight’s performance.
We begin with a young Moll (Margot Cramer) looking for money from a man looking for love; she wants a dollar, he offers 30 cents. The cops bust up the deal, but have bigger fish to fry. There’s a labor rally, and their boss Mr. Mister (D’Alessandro) has ordered heads busted. The “Liberty Committee,” is hauled into court as well, and we hear all their stories: artists who beg to flatter patrons for lunch, Preachers are paid to preach war, and the one man with some spine, Foreman (Pereyo), nearly gets bought off with cash. But he holds the line, and while this match is a draw, the battle lines are clear: it’s cheaper to bribe a few community leaders than it is to pay the rest a decent wage. Where have we heard this story again?
The show is purposely over the top; it’s a morality tale that never aims for subtlety. The characters are stock, and the lessons we learn show how easily anyone can be bought off, and not always for cash. D’Alessandro alternates between suave and outraged; I liked outrage better. Chase Walker is alcoholic druggist Harry; he lost a shop he didn’t even own when an assassination wipes out jovial and harmless but framed Gus Polock (Jordan Barnett). That’s capitalism; it makes few if any moral distinctions here. It’s a great morality tale, and the mural (Zephyr Lenninger and her crew) reminds me of the heroic murals in odd places like the Allen Bradly cafeteria back in Milwaukee. This show is about as political as you can get on the legitimate stage, and the stories it tells are still as relevant as when they tried to shut down the original production. Someone once said something about breaking eggs, but he was on the other side of the of the last big war, so that doesn’t count. Or does it?
For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html