Surely musical theater is last on the list of mediums suited to agitprop. At its best, it is too complex, too cosmopolitan and too pleasure-seeking to pass loyalty tests. What goes into the machinery as revolutionary rage comes out as “Les Miz.”
And yet there’s “The Cradle Will Rock,” Marc Blitzstein’s Brechtian “play in music” about unionizing the steel industry. Audiences at its fabled premiere in 1937 would have understood it without footnotes as a leftist rallying cry and a satire of unfettered capitalism’s enablers. Writing in The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson called it “a triumph of politically insurgent theater.”
But what is it now?
John Doyle’s revival, which opened on Wednesday at Classic Stage Company, is too wan to answer the question. Though his stripped-down approach often enhances richly conceived works — his production of “Carmen Jones” last year was gorgeous — it makes others, severe to begin with, seem cold and underfed.
The tension between minimalism and maximalism is central to “The Cradle Will Rock” in both style and story. It is not, dramatically, a subtle work; even the characters’ names are placards. In Steeltown, U.S.A., unionists led by Larry Foreman (Tony Yazbeck) try to organize impoverished workers. Determined to squash them is Mr. Mister (David Garrison), who owns everything and everyone.
His cronies and apologists include such allegorical types as Reverend Salvation and Editor Daily, whom 1937 audiences would have recognized as cartoon versions of Billy Sunday and William Randolph Hearst. When they and other members of Mr. Mister’s “liberty committee” get rounded up in a police sweep by accident, they find themselves in night court, sharing benches with agitators and undesirables.
That’s the simple frame for Blitzstein’s libretto, which alternates between scenes in the courtroom and the detainees’ back stories.
These come in two varieties. The cronies are featured in ham-handed vignettes of co-optation, each featuring Mr. Mister or his wife, Mrs. Mister (Sally Ann Triplett), blackmailing them into compliance. As a result, Reverend Salvation (Benjamin Eakeley) tailors his sermons to match each year’s political imperative and Editor Daily (Ken Barnett) creates “news to order,” much of it fake.
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A problem with this kind of satire is that once the pattern is established you know exactly how it will play out. President Prexy of the local university; Dr. Specialist, whose diagnoses can be bought; two lap dog artistes, Yasha and Dauber; even Junior and Sister Mister, both idlers — all do as they’re told once the cash spigot opens.
But the tone shifts radically whenever the focus is on capitalism’s victims, especially the ruined Harry Druggist (Mr. Yazbeck again) and the streetwalking Moll (Lara Pulver). Here Blitzstein gives us social realism, purple with sympathy and a plethora of ain’ts.
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.
The show’s history feeds into these contradictions. Whether because of budget cuts or censorship, “The Cradle Will Rock” was canceled by its sponsor, the Federal Theater Project, on the day of its planned premiere.
With the intended theater (and sets and costumes) locked down, the director, Orson Welles, then 22, decided to rent a space 19 blocks north. The audience paraded to the new site but, in an irony more pungent than any of Blitzstein’s, the actors’ and musicians’ unions forbade their members to perform under the terms of their existing contracts.
So Welles invited the actors to buy tickets and sing their roles, in street clothes, from their seats. On the otherwise empty stage, Blitzstein accompanied them at an upright piano, forgoing his 23-player orchestration.
That jury-rigged solution became the bare-bones template for most future productions. Classic Stage uses the piano reduction, played tag-team-style by four cast members. It cuts the company to 10 actors from 30, which can get confusing as most play multiple roles. Though there is a set, designed by Mr. Doyle, it is hardly more elaborate than the one at the premiere. Nor are Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes any showier: She dresses everyone, even the elites, in dirty work clothes, as if to underline the labor of the actors themselves.
The simplicity that has felt clarifying in Mr. Doyle’s best work feels stingy here. The piano accompaniment strips “The Cradle Will Rock” of much of its sostenuto beauty; what’s left is further eroded by singing that sometimes grates the ears. The staging, in one 90-minute act, is largely static and, where musical theater razzmatazz is called for, totally underwhelming. Too much of the acting seems deliberately wooden.
But 60 minutes in, just as you begin to fear that denying pleasure has become a point of pride, the production coalesces. Ms. Pulver offers a lovely version of the proletariat blues “Nickel Under the Foot.” The sulfurous title song, predicting the imminent downfall of the kleptocracy, gets a rousing rendition from Mr. Yazbeck. And Rema Webb, as a woman whose machinist husband, injured at the plant, has been smeared as a drunk, sells her furious 11 o’clock number (“Joe Worker”) for all it’s worth.
In these moments you begin to feel the tension between propaganda and entertainment as Blitzstein evidently intended. It’s only a start, but I’m not sure any production could manage the contradictions much better. The 2013 Encores! Off-Center version used a 13-piece orchestration but was barely staged. Opera house outings provide the full musical thrills at the expense of immediacy. Opera Saratoga’s live recording, conducted by John Mauceri, may get closest to a satisfying compromise.
But the revolution wasn’t supposed to be narrowcast. Maybe what “The Cradle Will Rock” needs so it can be heard anew is new technology — or new radicals. That can probably be arranged.B:
【糖】【儿】，【我】【爱】【你】。 【你】【说】【要】【嫁】【给】【我】【的】，【我】【赚】【了】【钱】【回】【来】，【你】【可】【不】【能】【反】【悔】。 …… 【姜】【糖】【躺】【在】【床】【上】，【想】【起】【白】【天】【秦】【灏】【情】【绪】【激】【动】【的】【与】【她】【说】【这】【话】。 【明】【明】【应】【该】【情】【绪】【大】【动】，【脸】【红】【心】【跳】【的】，【可】【她】【为】【什】【么】【没】【太】【大】【感】【觉】【呢】？ 【喜】【欢】【秦】【灏】【吗】？ 【从】【小】【到】【大】，【直】【到】【懂】【了】【男】【女】【之】【情】，【好】【似】【就】【没】【想】【过】【秦】【灏】【以】【外】【的】【人】。 【即】【便】【是】【现】【在】，【说】【要】
“【危】【险】?” 【西】【门】【玲】【珑】【有】【些】【好】【奇】：“【为】【什】【么】【会】【有】【危】【险】？” 【六】【尾】【摇】【头】：“【不】【知】【道】，【反】【正】【感】【觉】【上】【是】【这】【样】，【不】【会】【错】【的】，【先】【天】【九】【尾】【灵】【狐】，【有】【种】【能】【力】【的】。 【同】【族】【危】【险】，【很】【容】【易】【感】【知】【到】。” 【现】【在】【的】【它】【可】【不】【是】【普】【通】【的】【灵】【狐】，【而】【是】【先】【天】【九】【尾】【灵】【狐】，【内】【丹】【更】【是】【了】【得】。 【要】【不】【然】【也】【不】【会】【这】【么】【快】【就】【会】【说】【话】【了】。 【西】【门】【玲】【珑】【没】【有】【不】
【只】【听】【李】【恪】【一】【边】【走】，【一】【边】【开】【口】【对】【李】【承】【乾】【说】【道】：“【大】【哥】，【这】【千】【牛】【卫】【大】【将】【军】【应】【该】【如】【何】【处】【置】？” “【一】【个】【连】【应】【该】【效】【忠】【于】【谁】，【都】【不】【知】【道】【的】【人】，【让】【他】【活】【着】【又】【有】【什】【么】【用】。”【这】【时】【李】【世】【民】【迈】【步】【走】【进】【太】【极】【殿】，【一】【边】【走】【一】【边】【开】【口】【说】【道】。 【这】【一】【下】【在】【场】【的】【人】【彻】【底】【都】【傻】【了】，【原】【本】【李】【承】【乾】【死】【而】【复】【生】，【已】【经】【让】【他】【们】【够】【吃】【惊】【了】。 【可】【是】【如】【今】【李】【世】【民】【却】买马一般下什么软件“【怎】【么】，【我】【就】【不】【能】【活】【着】【了】【吗】？？？” 【看】【着】【身】【前】【的】【蓝】【裙】【少】【女】，【楚】【枫】【眸】【光】【冰】【冷】。 【眼】【前】【这】【个】【少】【女】，【看】【起】【来】【虽】【然】【柔】【美】【无】【比】，【但】【是】，【却】【是】【蛇】【蝎】【心】【肠】，【典】【型】【的】【死】【道】【友】【不】【死】【贫】【道】。 【先】【前】【如】【果】【不】【是】【他】【实】【力】【强】【悍】【的】【话】，【恐】【怕】【早】【就】【死】【在】【银】【尸】【王】【手】【中】【了】。 “【哈】【哈】，【怎】【么】【会】？？？” 【少】【女】【虽】【然】【一】【愣】，【不】【过】【很】【快】【反】【应】【了】【过】【来】，【嘴】
【江】【无】【风】【猜】【对】【了】，【这】【独】【一】【无】【二】【的】【特】【性】，【寄】【存】【的】【并】【非】【会】【随】【着】【时】【间】【而】【老】【去】【的】【身】【躯】，【亦】【或】【是】【微】【小】【的】【介】【质】【中】，【而】【是】【在】【那】【说】【不】【清】【道】【不】【明】【的】【灵】【魂】【之】【中】。 【弄】【清】【楚】【了】【这】【一】【点】，【江】【无】【风】【的】【心】【中】【计】【划】【更】【笃】【定】【了】【几】【分】，【早】【在】【很】【久】【以】【前】，【江】【无】【风】【就】【明】【白】，【自】【己】【的】【那】【种】【特】【性】【时】【刻】【在】【运】【作】，【只】【是】【可】【能】【自】【己】【不】【曾】【察】【觉】。 【他】【对】【于】【自】【己】【特】【性】【的】【了】【解】【也】【就】【停】
“【走】【吧】，【可】【以】【回】【去】【了】。”【陈】【鸣】【忽】【地】【对】【苏】【雪】【妍】【说】【道】。 【苏】【雪】【妍】【有】【些】【疑】【惑】，【不】【过】【并】【没】【有】【多】【问】，【只】【是】【将】【手】【中】【的】【茶】【盏】【放】【下】，【默】【默】【起】【身】。 “【诶】，【小】【姐】，【要】【回】【去】【了】【么】？”【紫】【儿】【连】【忙】【跟】【着】【站】【起】【身】。 “【嗯】。”【苏】【雪】【妍】【点】【了】【点】【头】。 【紫】【儿】【顿】【时】【有】【些】【想】【不】【通】【了】，【刚】【才】【还】【好】【好】【的】，【现】【在】【突】【然】【就】【要】【回】【去】？ 【因】【为】【周】【安】【出】【现】【在】【狄】【龙】【古】【树】