LP0108. THE CRADLE WILL ROCK (Marc Blitzstein) The 1964 Revival Cast, w.Gershon Kingsley (Pf.); Jerry Orbach, Laurie Peters, Nancy Andrews, Joseph Bova, Ben Bryant, Hal Buckley, Gordon Clarke, Karen Cleary, Clifford David, Dean Dittman, Rita Gardner, Micki Grant, Nichols Grimes, Peter Meersman, Ted Scott, Wayne Tucker, Chris Warfield. 2-MGM black label Stereo SE 4289-2, Gatefold Edition, Reissue of original MGM album.
“When Marc Blitzstein’ came into the room the lights got brighter. He was an engine, a rocket, directed in one direction which was his opera [THE CRADLE WILL ROCK] – which he almost believed had only to be performed to start the Revolution’.
The idea of THE CRADLE WILL ROCK had been suggested to Blitzstein by Bertolt Brecht, and the notorious circumstances of the work’s premičre made Blitzstein’s name famous across the nation. Set in Steeltown, USA, CRADLE is an allegory of corporate greed and corruption. The production was originally subsidized by the Federal Theatre Project, but at the last moment armed government agents surrounded New York’s Maxine Elliott Theatre, padlocked the doors, and impounded the costumes, scenery and props – even the leading man’s toupee. The ostensible reason for the shutdown was budget cuts, but it was almost universally believed that whoever was signing the checks objected to the left-leaning slant of the material. Without missing a beat, director Orson Welles, producer John Houseman, and Blitzstein rented a piano and the much larger Venice Theatre. Cast and audience marched through the streets from one theatre to the other, gathering more audience members (for free) along the way. Blitzstein narrated the entire piece from the piano, while cast members spoke and sang their parts from seats in the house, as they were not allowed by Equity rules to perform on stage. It was reported – by Archibald MacLeish, for one, who was there – to be one of the most moving theatrical experiences in memory.
Welles and Houseman, prompted by their triumph, went on to form The Mercury Theatre Company. Under these new auspices, the production reopened at the Windsor Theatre in January 1938 and played a total of 108 performances. Soon after its Broadway run, students at Harvard, led by young Leonard Bernstein at the piano, staged their own production, and from that first encounter Blitzstein and Bernstein formed a friendship of tremendous musical and personal importance to them both. Blitzstein turned out two more political works, a radio play dedicated to Welles - I’VE GOT THE TUNE (1937) and a quasi-opera, NO FOR AN ANSWER (1941) – before joining the Army Air Force for the duration of World War II.”
- LEC, Masterworks Broadway