AUFBAU 66:3 February 11, 2000 p.14
[Blitzstein At Joe's Pub
"Beyond the Cradle"]
485 words (for AUFBAU) 2/00 by Leonard Lehrman
The year before Joe Papp died, he confided to this writer: "Marc Blitzstein is one of my favorite theater composers." At the Public Theater's new cabaret spot, named after him, they are doing him proud, in a 90-minute non-stop show called "Beyond the Cradle: The Music of Marc Blitzstein," inspired in part by Tim Robbins' film, Cradle Will Rock. The two-man two-woman cast assembled and accompanied by pianist Ted Sperling is the best of its size doing Blitzstein on the New York stage since the 1964 revival of the Blitzstein play in music, The Cradle Will Rock, starring Jerry Orbach and directed by Howard da Silva.
Victoria Clark repeats her Mrs. Mister role from the movie, this time getting to do the entire Hotel Lobby scene from Cradle. She also does much greater justice to the work's principal song, "The Nickel Under the Foot," than any other recent performer. And her "Dimples/Fraught" duet with Brooks Ashmanskas goes beyond what Carol Channing did with the role--in the latter's 1941 debut.
Lauren Flanigan, New York City Opera's reigning diva, is the star of the show. Singing through, above, and around a cold, she managed both to float beautiful sounds in Birdie's two arias from Regina, and then raunch it up in "Modest Maid" plus the Tango-Ballad Duet with Malcolm Gets from the original version of Blitzstein's Threepenny Opera translation[--not the unfortunately better-known, watered-down "milkman" version on the MGM recording, that was improvised in the studios to circumvent the 1950s censors!
Some opening night jitters resulted in a few missed words on Mr. Gets's part in "Penny Candy" and "One Kind Word." And the two premiered works, "Upstairsy" (N.Y. premiere) sung by Ms. Flanigan and "In the Clear" (world premiere of the complete ver-sion) sung by Mr. Sperling at the piano, were a bit slow and fast, respectively. But on the whole, both solos and ensembles worked splendidly, particularly the specially created ar-rangements for this group of the Regina "Rain Quartet" and the encore "Stay in My Arms."
The composer Michael-John LaChiusa was there on a busman's holiday, inspired by the 1990 Premier CD, "A Blitzstein Cabaret," and reflecting how much his own work has benefitted from the pioneering work of composer-lyricist Marc Blitzstein. One was reminded of the story of Frank Loesser who, when asked why he was attending performance after performance of Regina, replied: "I'm studying!"
Ten of the 16 Blitzstein numbers on the program are printed in volume 1 of The Marc Blitzstein Songbook, just published by Boosey & Hawkes. One can only wish for many more such programs and volumes to come.]
The current show will be repeated the next two Monday nights, February 14 & 21, at 8:30 pm at Joe's Pub, 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets are $20 + a two-drink minimum. Information: (212) 539-8777.
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