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BWW Reviews: 3-D Theatricals' Lush RAGTIME Graces Fullerton Stage

Ragtime/book by Terrence McNally/music by Stephen Flaherty; lyrics by Lynn Ahrens/based on the book Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow/directed by T. J. Dawson/3-D Theatricals/Plummer Auditorium, Fullerton/through October 26/Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center Nov 1-9

Since its creation in 1997, Ragtime has remained one of my favorite musicals for two reasons. Its simply gorgeous almost opera-like musical score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens moves me to the bone, and it has more meaningful historical content about America at the turn of the 20th century than just about any other show. Now by means of 3-D Theatricals' new, freshly staged production, onstage in Fullerton through October 26, Ragtime continues its deeply moving effect on audiences.

There is a lot of history and music to fit into the 3 hour show, and this was one of the original problems the creators faced in making all the elements of the story work smoothly. Some numbers had to be cut, like one very entertaining turn by the actor playing Harry Houdini (Gary Brintz). Thank goodness for Evelyn Nesbitt (Jeanette Dawson), and that the girl on the swing's number "Crime of the Century" is in tact because of its entertainment value as well as its tongue-in-cheek dubious appraisal of crime does not pay. This is a big musical in scope and director T. J. Dawson and choreographer Dana Solimando have worked wonders to get almost 50 actors in place for various choral scenarios, like the opening, Sarah's funeral scene and finale. The staging of "What a Game" is razor sharp and carried out with tremendous exuberance and skill.

Under T. J. Dawson's meticulous guidance, the ensemble are all outstanding. Rufus Bonds Jr. is ferociously intense as Coalhouse Walker Jr. and sings from the depths of his soul. Daebreon Poiema is a knockout as Sarah with a powerful voice to match. Christanna Rowader is stalwart as Mother; her "Back to Before" is electric. Craig McEldowney brings hardcore tradition to the fore as Father. Gary Patent is a gem as Tateh, full of old-world passion and Jean Kauffman is fierce as the unflinchingly determined pioneer Emma Goldman. Tyler Miclean makes a very believable Younger Brother in his reckless transition to manhood. It is nice to see Doug Carfrae in a smaller role as Grandfather and veterans like Robert Yacko in the chorus.The entire chorus sing beautifully together under musical director Julie Lamoureux's expertise.

Some of the more memorable tunes include: Mother's aforementioned "Back to Before" - for me, the crowning song of the show, conveying the true meaning of change, "New Music" - stunning!..., "Wheels of a Dream", "Gliding", "Our Children", "Sarah Brown Eyes", "He Wanted to Say", and "Make Them Hear You", all musically rich and loaded with guts and glory.

Set design provided by Fullerton & Citrus College is a huge steel-tiered apparatus with walkways and bridges, all of which serves the piece perfectly. Costumes by Networks are period-lovely to look at.

Bravo to 3-D Theatricals once again for a powerhouse production. Ragtime is a great musical and should be seen and savored by one and all, young and old.

(photo credit: Isaac James Creative)

Regional Awards

From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                            ... (read more about this author)