Encores! Rocks the Cradle

By Steven Suskin
11 Jul 2013

Anika Noni Rose
Photo by Joan Marcus

Highly effective performances come from Peter Friedman, as a guilt-stricken druggist; Judy Kuhn, as a cigar-chomping newspaper editor; Michael Moran and Henry Stram, teaming up as the Mister children and a pair of effete artists; Aidan Gemme, an actual child playing mostly adult roles; and Robert Petkoff, who does a fine job with the "Gus and Sadie Love Song." All but walking away with the proceedings is Da'Vine Joy Randolph (of Ghost), who sits virtually silent until the end when she gives a riveting rendition of "Joe Worker."

Read Playbill.com's interview with Jeanine Tesori, Chris Fenwick and Sam Gold about The Cradle Will Rock

While the musical has traditionally been performed with piano accompaniment, Cradle was originally intended to be performed with Blitzstein's full (but rarely used) orchestration. Off-Center has commissioned an excellent new 14-piece orchestration by Josh Clayton, which adds to the power of the evening. Credit is also due to music director Chris Fenwick, who oversees both the orchestra and the sometimes-complicated full cast vocals.

Under the artistic direction of composer Jeanine Tesori, Encores! Off-Center continues through the month. The five performances of Cradle (through July 13) will be followed by a one-night-only production of Tesori's own Violet, starring Sutton Foster, on July 17; and Renée Elise Goldsberry in the Gretchen Cryer/Nancy Ford I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road from July 24-27.

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Judy Kuhn, Danny Burstein, Eisa Davis, Anika Noni Rose, Raul Esparza and Aidan Gemme
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN