Ragtime

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    November 1, 2009
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Ragtime Artwork

    Cast 16 Nov 2009: Cast of Ragtime

    Cast 16 Nov 2009: Christiane Noll (Mother), Ron Bohmer (Father), Robert Petkoff (Tateh) and Sarah Rosenthal (The Little Girl)

    Cast 16 Nov 2009: Stephanie Umoh (Sarah) and Quentin Earl Darrington (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.)

    Review by Tulis McCall
    16 Nov 2009

    Good gravy! This is a glorious, glorious show. On the way into the theatre I overheard two men: “I’m surprised there is even a crowd. It won’t last four months. Reply: “It wont last four weeks.”

    On the way out of the theatre I overheard two other couples: “I can’t remember when was the last time I cried at a show.” Reply: “In the first act. I cried in the first act.” And Woman: “I hope this gets a good review.” Man: “IT BETTER!”

    If you like musicals, you’re in luck because this show is chock-a-block full of music. If you don’t like musicals you are also in luck, because this is an operetta. There are about 15 minutes worth of lines in this play, which means that Terrence McNally must hold the record on fewest lines written that won a Tony. The music is not there to move the story along. The music is the story.

    Beautifully directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime seems to weave itself together in front of your eyes as the characters move from level to level on the spare and elegant set. People live their lives, shout from balconies and peer around corners. They run from life, to life and into life. Story line overlaps story line accompanied by recurring syncopated themes that never quite disappear. Even when the characters aren’t singing they each are moving in time to an inner beat that eventually leaks over the stage’s edge and into the audience. Remarkable.

    Based on E. L. Doctorow’s novel this sprawling tale connects the world of upper class New Rochelle white people with Lower East Side immigrants and Harlem’s middle class citizens. Doctorow planted them all firmly under the umbrella of 1902, as the century was happily shedding itself of the 1800’s and trying on new togs. Doctorow fastened tie lines to real people like Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Emma Goldman and Henry Ford, and then tossed in a list of “what if’s” that make this story take flight. What if that immigrant began a motion picture company; what if that black woman who tried to kill her child was rescued by a white woman who was just beginning to make her own decisions; what if the black piano player changed people’s lives with his music and his demands for justice. Three separate, and happy to be so, worlds slide together like marbles on a silver tray. The collisions stack up until they are standing on their own shoulders. The result is a magnificent tale of this country and of us.

    Ragtime music was the Elvis Presley of its time. It shocked people out of their corsets and into each other’s arms. It was a daring music that, once heard, could not be unheard. It grew out of the music from the Civil War and was the parent to Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley. Ragtime preceded the Suffrage and Labor movements by minutes on the time line. It blew open the doors to the drawing room and shined a light on what a wonderful thing it was just to be alive.

    This production of Ragtime transports you to that exact moment when the music changed and us with it. Quentin Earl Darrington (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Christiane Noll (Mother), Robert Petkoff (Tateh) in particular craft the story into a rich feast. And Bobby Steggert (Mother’s Younger Brother) handles the pivotal role of the man who crosses the race line with a surprising vulnerability. The result: you, having witnessed and literally experienced the love, excitement, tragedy and wonder of this story, will stand up and cheer along with the rest of the audience. Just because you can.

    Go. Go. GO!!!!

    (Tulis McCall)

    BEN BRANTLEY for NEW YORK TIMES says, "Appealingly modest new interpretation."

    JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ for NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says, "strikingly staged and vividly performed"

    ELISABETH VINCENTELLI for NEW YORK POST says, "While the stage overflows with outsize feelings and themes, they make relatively little impression."

    JOHN SIMON for BLOOMBERG says, "What you see may rate only a respectable B+, but what you hear earns a resounding A."

    ELYSA GARDNER for USA TODAY says, "Emotion conquers all in this Ragtime, so check your skepticism at the door and enjoy."

    DAVID SHEWARD for BACK STAGE says, "In a season full of star vehicles, ... "Ragtime" ... steamrollers its way to the top of the heap."

    ROBERT FELDBERG for THE RECORD says, "Vivid, stirring, lovingly staged revival."

    MICHAEL KUCHWARA for ASSOCIATED PRESS says, "A respectful, recalibrated revival."

    DAVID ROONEY for VARIETY says, "Musical-theater storytelling at its most vibrant."

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - USA Today - Back Stage - The Record - Associated Press - Variety