Saturday, May 20, 2017


Just home from the theater! I know, what's new?!
Tonight was my fourth foray to Ford's theater for a musical or a play in the past year, and tonight it was the Musical "Ragtime". And once again, the cultural dunderhead that I apparently am, I have read neither the book or seen the movie--and really had no idea what to expect. In a nutshell, it would seem that E. L. Doctorow wrote an epic turn of the century novel about the tumultuous start of the 20th century with its Robber Barons, Emerging Racial Consciousness for African Americans, and Influx of Immigrants from Eastern Europe. An epic distilled again by Terrance McNally into the "book" for the musical. A handful of historical cameos are tossed in from Emma Goldman and Harry Houdini to Henry Ford and Booker T. Washington for historical context. It covers a lot of ground...perhaps too much ground. The arch of a story line woven haphazardly among the many ideas and individuals vying for our attention in the course of libretto is daunting. However, that criticism bore no ill effect on this amazing production.

Ford's Theater is a classic 19th century theater (think the Opera House in Lexington, Kentucky or Thalian Hall in Wilming- ton, North Carolina. The space is elegant for it's era and intimate by today's standards. This production took the relatively small stage and made it feel large. The embodiment of an America buttressed by the marvels of "modern" industry, scaffolded in iron works and reaching for the sky.

One of the reasons that I decided to purchase a second bite at this apple (after missing my first date due to strep throat--denizen of teachers everywhere!) was because of the actors who were in it. So many of whom I have seen in other productions of the past year and who always delivered amazing performances. Chief among them were: Rayanne Gonzalez (Carousel @ Arena Stage, Man of La Mancha @ Shakespeare Theatre Company), Kevin McAllister and Tracy Lynn Olivera (both Titanic @ Signature Theatre), Nora Y. Payton (Silver Belles & La Cage Aux Folles @ Signature Theatre, Caroline, Or Change @ Round House Theatre). Not surprisingly, they all pleased me profoundly with their exceptional talents once again. Every member of the cast was wonderful and daring and added to an ensemble that ought to remain on anyone's short list for next year's Helen Hayes Awards.

Being that it was the show's final performance, you do expect it to be its best. As the cast and crew rose to give it their all...the buzz around the theater represented an audience that was likewise committed and responsive. The perfect storm for any performance. While I would never call "Ragtime" one of my favorite musicals, I would call this evening a wonderful time at the theater!

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