RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL by Carol Kaufman Segal
Ragtime: The Musical is written by Terrence McNally, based on the historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, and playing at the Pasadena Playhouse. Though the novel is historical, the play mixes the history with fiction in a captivating production with outstanding music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and a superb talented cast.
The play focuses on the lives of three groups of people who represent different aspects of people in America in the early 20th century. Though they have no knowledge of one another, or reason to have, this will change as their lives interweave in a story of life, love, tragedy, and the society of its time,
Those involved include a well-to-do white family, Mother (Shannon Warne), Father (Zachary Ford), their Little Boy (Luke Barbato Smith), Mother’s Little Brother (Dylan Saunders) and Grandfather (Gregory North), who live a comfortable life in New Rochelle. There is a Jewish immigrant, Tateh (Marc Ginsburg), who has brought his Little Girl (Laura Nermirosky) to America seeking a better life. And then there is Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Clifton Duncan) an African American piano player, who finds himself alone since his girlfriend Sarah (Bryce Charles) left him as a consequence of his infidelity.
These are all citizens seeking a normal life, while having to deal with the impediments of the world around them. In their time, the people and the country dealt with social problems such as women’s rights, racial discrimination, and immigration. With them, the play features some of the historical figures that advanced America’s future including Harry Houdini (Benjamin Schrader), J.P. Morgan (Tom B. McMahon), Henry Ford (Ryan Dietz), Emma Goldman (Valerie Perri), and Evelyn Nesbit (Katherine McDonough).
After seeing the problems that touch each of these people throughout the play, we realize how relevant this lustrous musical is today. And we have to wonder – how much advancement have we really attained in the 21st century?
The production features a cast of 21, some performing multiple roles, a 16-piece orchestra under the direction of Darryl Archibald, choreography by Mark Exposito, beautiful costumes by Kate Bergh, and a wonderful scenic design by Tom Buderwitz, all under the astute direction of David Lee.
You won’t want to miss Ragtime: The Musical playing Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 So. El Molino Ave., Pasadenathrough March 9. Tickets are available at the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, online at pasadenaplayhouse.com or by phone at 626-7529.