SU Drama students engage with spunk and powerhouse performances in ‘Cradle will Rock’.

“And when the wind blows, the Cradle will Rock”

Directed by Rodney Hudson

Music, Book and Lyrics: Marc Blitzstein

Presented by Syracuse University Drama

Location  Archibold Theatre, Syracuse Stage | 820 E. Genesee St.

Running time  110 minutes with an intermission

Dates Now through Oct. 8.

Tickets $16-$18

By Aasimah Navlakhi

The first thing I noticed was optical illusion.

Black and white images of bread lines during the Great Depression flash on the gauze curtain that is drawn across the stage.

There is a hint of the set lurking behind, waiting to be uncovered. An actor runs onto the stage, and hands sheet music to the conductor (Brian Cimmet). The theatrical “fourth wall” comes crashing down, and the play begins.

Larry Foreman(David Siciliano ), leader of the union movement is making an impassioned speech to a group of workers. A whistle blows, and the authorities crack down on the mob. The play opens on a high, with screams and sobs that pierce the audience with alarming intensity.

Set in the hypothetical Steeltown, USA, Marc Blitzstein’s ‘Cradle Will Rock’ follows the exploits of wealthy industrialist, Mr. Mister, who is putting together a ‘Liberty Committee’ to battle the Larry Foreman’s attempts to form a union.

Broken up into little vignettes, it moves in reverse chronology, documenting how each member was recruited to the Committee.

An outright satire on politics and art, the play has artists and musicians singing of ‘Art For Art’s Sake’, and an ode devoted solely to ‘The Freedom of the Press’.

There is no doubt that since its original debut in 1937, this play has been out to shock.

“We’ll have to sell our steel to the French, or English or German; Though the latter is vermin,” sings Mrs. Mister, and before you know it, we are at her house watching her son and daughter crooning about spooning and touching each other inappropriately on a beautifully crafted swing set.

Presented by the students in the SU Drama department, the show boasts some powerhouse performances.

Marie Claire King steals the show with her outrageous portrayal of Mrs. Mister, and Elliot Peterson as Editor Daily does a fantastic job of depicting the helplessness and malleability of the press.

"Cradle will Rock" is onstage through Oct. 8. | Photo by Michael Davis

The show, shares themes with Claude-Michel Schönberg’s ‘Les Misérables’, but fails to convey the same passion and intensity of that classic. It is well directed, with smooth transitions between scenes.  And there really were no boring moments. The spontaneous (and sometimes unexpected) bursts of dance point to the ingenuity of the choreographer, Andrea Leigh-Smith.

Witty dialogue, authentic costumes and a gritty, functional set are what make this musical tick, but a fuzzy plot line and sometimes incoherent dialogue delivery leave audiences grasping for enlightenment.

At it’s opening in 1937, the musical was meant to make audiences think, and SU Drama’s effort aspires to no less. A musical with many layers, this one will ensure that you come back with more questions than answers. And in my book, that’s a job well done.

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2 thoughts on “SU Drama students engage with spunk and powerhouse performances in ‘Cradle will Rock’.

  1. Hey, Thanks for posting this. You have made some really interesting point in this article. I like it and I’ll keep coming back. Bye!

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