Patti LuPone and Son Shine Together in Acting Company's Cradle Will Rock Benefit

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20 May 2014

Patti LuPone
Patti LuPone
Photo by Ethan Hill

Two-time Tony Award-winner Patti LuPone returned to her Olivier Award-winning role of Moll in Marc Blitzstein's socialist 1937 musical The Cradle Will Rock May 19 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.


The one-night only concert, directed by Lonny Price, was a benefit for The Acting Company, of which LuPone was a founding member and with whom she first played Moll Off-Broadway in 1983. LuPone was joined onstage by her son, 2013-14 Acting Company member Joshua Johnston, as well as her cousin Johann Carlo.

Read's interview with LuPone and Johnston here

Returning to the show were several members of the original 1983 revival company including Casey Biggs, Randle Mell, Brian Reddy, Tom Alan Robbins, Mary Lou Rosato, David Schramm, Denise Woods and at the piano, musical director Michael Barrett. Rounding out the cast were Acting Company alumni Fred Arsenault, Todd Cerveris, Suzy Kohane, Dakin Matthews, Grant Fletcher Prewitt and Derek Smith.

Presented at the Bernard Jacobs Theater, on the set of Once, The Cradle Will Rock began, as it did in 1983, with John Houseman's description of the show's legendary premiere in 1937, when the banned piece had to be performed by cast members scattered throughout the house as a workaround to the edict barring them from appearing in the production "on stage." The 2014 audience audience was particularly amused by Houseman's claim that The Cradle Will Rock was described by Blitzstein as "a labor opera composed in a style that falls somewhere between realism, romance, vaudeville, comic strip, Gilbert and Sullivan, Brecht and Agit Prop."

This time, Houseman's words were voiced by the cast members themselves; a few of them stood in two of the audience boxes, providing a taste of the original experience.

The show proper was performed on the stage and basically in a replica of Houseman's 1983 staging, slightly simplified for the concert presentation. No one held scripts, and the entire cast delivered at the top of their game.

From the haunting first notes of the opening, "Moll's Song" (also known as "I'm Checkin' Home Now"), LuPone seemed to be time travelling, perhaps playing the role via muscle memory, as she sounded essentially identical to her 1983 cast album performance. For anyone who's ever wondered how she won an Olivier Award for a part in an ensemble show that ran only a few weeks, her performance was a revelation, especially her iconic rendition of "The Nickel Under Your Foot." LuPone's Moll is tired and world-weary — a hooker who's hungry but too exhausted to make a very convincing play for any of her potential Johns. But at the core of the throaty wail of this broken woman is an aching sweetness, a longing that makes her the heart of The Cradle Will Rock. As she sits in night court, waiting for her sentence, she is the spirit of the worker, addicted to the trappings of a bourgeois society, from which she is shut out.


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