We are gearing up for a concert performance of Marc Blitzstein’s No For An Answer on Nov. 19 at Merkin Concert Hall. No For An Answer came together in 1941 and had a very short run over a few weekends at what is now City Center. No For An Answer was Blitzstein’s follow-up to his 1936 The Cradle Will Rock. Known as “agitation propaganda” (agit prop) in the Brechtian tradition, Cradle caught an important slice of the American zeitgeist when labor was beginning to organize against big business. This is also the central theme of Cradle. Blitzstein’s musical style is often compared to Kurt Weill’s. They wrote in the language of the common man and woman. And Blitzstein would easily move between spoken language (often in a a specific rhythm) and song. He sought “actors who could sing a little” rather than opera singers. Here is the opening number of The Cradle Will Rock. The young Patti LuPone is joined by Tim Robbins and Henry Stram. Your truly is at the piano. It was my first musical job in NYC. 1984.
This is absolutely my favorite musical theater lyric of all time. Every rhyme, every word, each consonant and vowel is full of action and rich with subtext. The song shifts between 3/4 time, with understated and seemingly solicitous lyrics, and 6/8 time, at which point the emotions of the lyric are more articulate and fiery. The words have a lacerating effect as the character Phyllis makes a bold statement about her independence.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched this brilliantly savage performance by Donna Murphy. In addition to a stunning interpretation, you have Patti LuPone reacting in the background. Can’t get much better than that.
“Could I Leave You?” from Follies
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