BWW Review: RAGTIME at Midtown Arts Center is Captivating

BWW Review: RAGTIME at Midtown Arts Center is Captivating

I've been around the theater for a long time. Throughout the years, thespians, such as myself, have experienced shows that quickly move to the top of the lists of favorites. Topping my list is none other than Ragtime, The Musical, which is also Midtown Arts Center's latest production.

In case you are unfamiliar, Ragtime tells the story of three distinct groups of people in the early 1900s: highbrow Caucasians, middle-class African-Americans and poverty-driven immigrants, each with a titular character to represent the trials and tribulations they must overcome or be succumbed. Although based in a different era, Ragtime continues to be the story of our time; the story that needs telling.

Under the direction of Joseph Callahan, Midtown Arts Center's mounting of this powerful work is produced with high quality production and performance value. Although some of Callahan's blocking choices are elementary, the majority of his work on the production is clever and thoughtful. Scenic and Lighting Design by Chad Bonaker are second to none. His lighting design, specifically, is unique in ways that I have not seen done previously and it truly enhances the moment. In terms of music direction, I do feel as if some sacrifices were made, not to the benefit of the production. With Jalyn Courtenay Webb as both music director and cast member, opportunities to finesse are missed because the person who should be out front listening to what is being created is also on stage. The production could have also benefited from a larger ensemble or pit chorus to really fill out those powerful, choral moments that happen often throughout the show. There were moments in which traditional ensemble songs were changed to brief solos and for those familiar with the production, it was a glaring difference.

The cast itself is incredibly strong and the show allows for a lot of opportunity to stand out for many of the players. As the immigrant father, Tateh, Michael Lasris gives the role a sense of comic relief, much needed in a heavy show. Although not a strong vocalist, his dedication to the role makes for an endearing Tateh. In the role of Mother, Alisa Metcalf shines from the stage. A fine performer, she gives the role a tenderness that is complemented by the purity in her vocals that ring clear as a bell. As Sarah, Marissa Rudd ably plays her role, although is inconsistent in her vocal stylings. Rudd is a strong actress with a powerhouse belt, however at times she would switch between a darker, operatic tone and a brighter, typical musical theater belt. Both styles are sung appropriately, but the disconnect between the two is evident. As our leading man, Coalhouse Walker, Brian Boyd offers a portrayal that seems softer and kinder than those I have seen in the past. I have always considered Coalhouse to be this confident man who has all the answers; a man who calculates every step of his journey to ensure success. Boyd's interpretation throws all of that out and instead portrays a man whose only desire is to live happily in a world that accepts him; a world where his son can grow up to be anything he wants. Boyd's vocals are impressive, as are his acting chops, but I encourage him to consciously think about how the rest of his body is engaged in the scene, specifically hands and feet.

Other notable stand out performances include Webb's Emma Goldman, as well as, Christian Ray as Houdini and Taylor Marrs as Father. The show is surely one not to miss, more so because of the various themes recognized throughout the production and how they relate to our current culture as a nation. As I said before, Ragtime continues to be the story of our time, and Midtown's performance is sure to leave you encouraged to go out and tell the story.

Midtown Arts Center's production of Ragtime, The Musical runs March 23 - May 26, 2018 with performances Thursday - Saturday evenings with dinner seating beginning at 6:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons with dinner seating beginning at 12:00 PM. For tickets and more information, visit www.midtownartscenter.com or call the box office at 970-225-2555, Tuesday - Saturday, 11am - 5pm.

Photo courtesy of Midtown Arts Center

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From This Author Jon Bee

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