This musical marks the end of an era – the 10th anniversary of Arcola theatre and the very last time you can see a production at the Arcola Street location.
It’s Steeltown USA and the local steelworkers are eager to unionise with a campaign that’s rocking the city. The Union’s opposition, the villainously wealthy Mr Mister, has the newspaper, the local druggist, the courts and Reverend Salvation in his back pocket while local prostitute, Moll, is arrested and finds herself in the middle. Did you say revolution?
Originally directed and conceived by the legendary Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman, The Cradle Will Rock has gone down in theatrical history as the musical that defied an attempted ban by USA Federal Authorities with what may have been the most rousing and poignant opening night ever.
Marc Blitzstein is largely known as the translator of Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Arcola Theatre’s Founder and Artistic director Mehmet Ergen directs this final Arcola Street production, his first since 2008’s hugely successful An Enemy of the People.
Arcola Theatre presents
THE CRADLE WILL ROCK
Book, Music and Lyrics by Marc Blitzstein
Directed by Mehmet Ergen
Designed by Lisa Engel and Hannah Penfold
Musical Director Bob Broad
Lighting Designer Alex Wardle
Cast includes: Josie Benson, Rowan Thomas Clift, Alicia Davies, Morgan Deare, Adey Grummet, Chris Jenkins, Nichola Lagan, Adam Linstead, Ian Midlane, Rachael Louise Miller, Russell Morton, Nathan Osgood, Stuart Matthew Price, Robin Samson, Aaron Shirley and Hemi Yeroham
Photograph by Jonas Dovydenas
The British premiere of The Cradle Will Rock took place at Unity Theatre in 1951. Arcola Theatre gratefully acknowledges the support of the Unity Foundation in making this production possible.
SPOONFED (Critics Choice)
The Cradle Will Rock at Arcola Theatre is an example of the way directors like Mehmet Ergen can turn what could be an entertaining, phrenic snack into an absorbing, bold belter of a show. Marc Blitzstein’s script, first produced in 1937, has always been sharp and witty but Arcola Theatre’s production can boast perfect pace, clever lighting and a fantastic cast. Where its cynicism could be timeworn, it instead displays a sad poignancy. Where it could be sentimental, it’s funny. And where it could be idealistic, it’s knowing. – Naima Khan
A theatrical blast that is as uncompromising as it is fascinating. Ergen’s large cast is taut and overall excellent. The regimented staging suits this atmospheric arena perfectly, with clever design by Lisa Engel and Hannah Penfold, and expressive lighting by Alex Wardle. Great musicianship from Bob Broad seated at a piano head on to the action. – Michael Coveney
LONDON EVENING STANDARD
It’s certainly easy to admire…Mehmet Ergen’s slick, well sung production. It’s wonderful to see the musical results that fringe theatres can acheive with a bit on imagination and just a solo piano for accompaniment. – Fiona Mountford
The Cradle Will Rock is artistically sophisticated and thoroughly entertaining. Blitzstein’s 1937 ‘labour opera’ proves in this high-intensity revival to be melodic, powerful, moving and entertaining in equally strong proportions. – Gerald Berkowitz
The Cradle WIll Rock offers both a glimpse into theatrical history and a singularly musical experience. This is very much the antidote to the glossy American Musical. Idiosyncratic, defiant and distinctinve are all words that apply to this agit-prop musical, and they might also be used to describe the Arcola and director Mehmet Ergen. It has real grit and absolutely no tap dancing. Ergen’s spare production is driven both by anger and a score that has a jaunty, defiant and driving power. A large cast turn in committed performances. – Lyn Gardner
An assured production. The Cradle Will Rock should be seen for its accomplished cast and the many moments of wit and warmth they bring. – Kevin Sherwin.
Sparely staged, beautifully lit and powerfully sung. – Paul Taylor
THE ARTS DESK
Blitzstein’s message still speaks to us today. It’s a piece anyone who agrees with Blitzstein’s campaign against art soley for the aesthestes wants to like. Chris Jenkins has animal stage presence and decisively the highlight was the monologue of Josie Benson’s Ella Hammer with crystal-clear modulation worthy of the sublime Audra McDonald. – David Nice
There are lively performances from Ergen’s 16-strong cast, who sing powerfully to a piano backing. The cast hit a sweet spot that allows characters such as Nathan Osgood’s Dr Specialist and Adey Grummet’s Mrs Mister to live and breathe. – Dominic Maxwell
TIME OUT LONDON (Critics Choice)
Marc Blitzstein’s fiery peice of musical theatre proudly proclaims its Brechtian political and artistic radicalism. A timely reminder of the artictically engaged ethic that has underpinned the Arcola’s astonishing achievement over the past decade. – Lucy Powell
THE BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
The Cradle Will Rock is musical invigoration. It is performed by an exemplary cast who work together as an ensemble but still have their individual moments. – Howard Loxton