Syracuse University's production of 'The Cradle Will Rock' is a musical with a conscience

Running from Sept. 30 through Oct. 8, 'The Cradle Will Rock' is sure to both entertain and inform.

On Sept. 30, Syracuse University's production of 'The Cradle Will Rock', the most influential musical no one has ever heard of, opened at the Archbold Theatre at Syracuse Stage. Set in the fictional city of Steeltown, USA, the musical tells the controversial story of union formation in the 1930s almost entirely through song. Though the play itself lacks narrative consistency, the SU drama department handles the textured combination of humor and drama with unparalleled professionalism.

The majority of the action takes place in night court where the members of the Liberty Committee are being held. The committee is the brainchild of the town boss Mr. Mister and throughout both acts the audience is shown, through a series of flashbacks, how each member sold out to the manipulative Mr. Mister. Also held in custody for inciting a riot is the union leader Larry Foreman. Eventually, Foreman is also approached by Mr. Mister and must make the decision between financial security and union rights. 

The first thing one notices when walking into Archbold Theatre is the remarkable set. Projections of vintage union footage appear three dimensional. The black-and-white color scheme immediately evokes the sorrow of the Great Depression. A lone iron rod lamp (sans shade of course) provides an eerie sense of trespassing.Courtesy of Syracuse Stage

The scenic surprises continue throughout the production. In one number, a lovebird's swing flies above the audience. In another, the character of Reverend Salvation, played by Nicholas Petrovich, is wheeled around on a massive crucifix. As a whole, the scenic design both complements the music and excites the eye.

Primarily composed of junior and senior musical theater students, the cast jives off each other's energy from beginning to end. With more than twenty actors on stage, there is a strong emphasis on ensemble work. The musical numbers are mostly solos and duets, but the ensemble contributes something to every song and a large portion of the cast never leaves the stage.

Though everyone holds their own, there are a few stand outs. At the beginning of the show the elusive Mr. Mister possesses the same mystery as the Wizard of Oz. When the man behind the curtain is finally revealed, he is an intimidating figure both in his height and sour attitude. Amos VanderPoel, a senior acting student, plays the perfect villain. With a bellowing baritone voice and the ability to fake a heart attack at a moment's notice, VanderPoel strikes fear into the heart of all union sympathizers. “There ain't no Mr. Mister, there's just the boogeyman,” describes his chilling performance to a tee.

Mrs. Mister, the floosy counterpart to Mr. Mister, is the Cruella de Vil of Steeltown. Mary Claire King, a senior Musical Theater major, is a great mix of drunk socialite in a fur shawl and criminal mastermind. Her high notes reflect operatic training, even if they are suppose to be the result of too much moonshine. “Hard Times”, her opening number, establishes her character as an immovable pillar of capitalism. The line “I can see the market rising like a beautiful bird,” is delivered with such veracity that you feel as if crisp dollar bills are about to flow from the fly space.

The first act is very heavy on the laughs. Junior Mister, played by Eric Meyers, and Sister Mister, played by Katie Lamark, ham it up in hula skirts. The cheeky number “Art for Art's Sake” sees the artist Dauber, played by Sean Coyle, literally kissing Mrs. Mister's butt.

In stark contrast, the second act focuses much more on the plight of the union worker. Larry Foreman, the union leader noticeably absent from Act One, provides the ensemble with a much needed conscience. David Siciliano, a junior acting major, delivers a Hannibal Lecter-like performance that will be hard to forget.

'The Cradle Will Rock' is a worthwhile production that, at the very least, makes one think about the current state of the American economy. Musical lovers who prefer the frivolousness of 'Bye Bye Birdie' to the militaristic masterpiece 'Les Misérables' may not appreciate the serious nature of the subject matter. But the powerful talent prevalent in SU's production will please many theater goers.

'The Cradle Will Rock' is now playing through Oct. 8. For more information visit

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.