A plethora of musical theatre artists are featured on the soundtrack of the new Tim Robbins film "Cradle Will Rock." Depicting a dramatic, Depression-era episode in American theatre history, Robbins' sweeping movie reached the screen Dec. 8. The film will be released wide on Dec. 25.
While "Cradle Will Rock" straddles many storylines, its central tale concerns the famous Federal Theatre Project production of Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock. The cast of the musical-within a-film includes many New York theatre actors, such as Henry Stram (Titanic), Daniel Jenkins (Big), Erin Hill (Cabaret) and Victoria Clark (Titanic). All four appear on the soundtrack, singing several of the Brechtian songs from Blitzstein's opera. Among the numbers are "Honolulu," "Freedom of the Press," "Oh, What a Filthy Nightcourt" and "Art for Art's Sake."
Also featured on the album is Marie Christine star Audra McDonald singing Blitzstein's socialist anthem, "Joe Worker." McDonald herself does not appear in the film.
The 1937 production of The Cradle Will Rock, which was directed by a young Orson Welles, is one of the few politically-charged theatrical events in U.S. history. Backed by the government's FTP project, the leftist, satiric musical was set to open at the Maxine Elliot Theatre on June 16, but its funds were suddenly cut and the theatre shut by a Communism fearing Congress. In reaction, Welles and producer John Houseman instantly transferred the musical to the Venice Theatre 20 blocks away, where the cast performed the work from the audience to keep within union rules.
Welles and Houseman later resurrected The Cradle Will Rock at their own Mercury Theatre. Playing Welles in the film is Scottish actor Angus MacFadyen, while Cary Elwes plays Houseman. Hank Azaria is Blitzstein, John Turturro is actor Aldo Silvano and theatre actress Cherry Jones plays Hallie Flanagan, who fights for the life of the WPA Theatre before Congress.
Other familiar stage names featured in the movie are Stephen Spinella, Harris Yulin (as a politician), Albert Macklin (June Moon), Peter Jacobson, Bob Balaban (Mr. Happiness), Paul Giamatti (Three Sisters), Barnard Hughes (Waiting in the Wings), Steven Skybell (The Exact Center of the Universe), Robert Ari (Jolson & Co.), Michele Pawk (Cabaret), Gregg Edelman (1776), P.J. Brown, Carrie Preston (The Tempest) and Keira Naughton (Uncle Jack).
--By Robert Simonson