The Cradle Rocks Again at City Center

By Robert Simonson
22 Jun 2013

Sam Gold
Gold, however, is not interested in presenting a museum piece. The history of the musical may be engaging, but, for him, that's not a reason for mounting the work.

"I knew the show and I knew the history," he explained. "But my interest is for people to know the show, and not just know the history. I'm hoping to refocus the attention to the show itself, and not to the origin story, which is in the only thing people really know about the show."

"I don't think a lot of people know Blitzstein's work," echoed Tesori. "He was prolific. I've been delighted with my own discovery of this composer."

Set in Steeltown, USA, the politically charged, allegorical story wears its anti-capitalist allegiances on its sleeve. It follows Larry Foreman as he attempts to unionize the workers of the town, fighting an all-controlling businessman who goes by the name of Mr. Mister. It was written during the Depression, when many men were out of work, and labor unions had not only enoyed power, but public sympathy.

Seventy-six years later, a lot has changed in America. Labor unions have been severely weakened and bear a negative reputation with large segments of the public, while corporate CEOs are regarded by many Americans with admiration. Will a 2013 theatre audience have an appetite for Blitzstein's 1937 viewpoint?

The creators, frankly, do not know.

"There's, I think, an interesting conversation to have about labor rights and disparity of wealth and wages and all sorts of things that we're talking about in our national conversation," said Gold. "This was a piece of agitprop theatre that was written about something that was in the papers. I'm interested in what the reaction will be in a show that engages in the national conversation at that level."

"What's going to be surprising" to the audience, opined Gold, "is that theatre can be overly political and ask the people who come to see it to affect direct change in their lives. That's something that we don't engage in much in the New York theatre community."

"The piece is a political discussion," said Tesori. "The politics of theatre is an interesting one, because, to me, it's about being part of the conversation. I think the show reveals the complicated questions of how art and commerce come together, how accumulated wealth is used, how it's unevenly distributed in this country to a degree that I don't understand."

"I'm not even going to guess," about the audience reaction, continued Tesori. "I don't know. I'm so interested in the piece, so invested in the artists who are doing it. That's been compelling to me."