Interview: Ben Cherry Says RAGTIME at Flint Repertory Theatre is a Gorgeous and Intimate Retelling with a Multi-Talented Ensemble

See this unique production in Flint from June 9th to the 25th.

By: Jun. 04, 2023
Interview: Ben Cherry Says RAGTIME at Flint Repertory Theatre is a Gorgeous and Intimate Retelling with a Multi-Talented Ensemble
Ben Cherry
(Tateh in Flint Repertory Theatre’s production of Ragtime)

From June 9th to the 25th only, you can catch the modern Broadway classic Ragtime reimagined by the Flint Repertory Theatre. When this musical opened on Broadway in 1998, it was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and won four of them, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. Taking place in the early 20th century, Ragtime is all about the stories of three different Americans and their families. One is an upper-class suburban wife called "Mother," one is a Jewish immigrant named Tateh, and one is an African American Harlem-based musician named Coalhouse Walker Jr.

Here to tell you more about Ragtime and what you can expect from Flint Repertory Theatre’s upcoming production is Ben Cherry, who plays the aforementioned Tateh. Read our conversation below! 

BWW Michigan: Can you give BWW readers a brief background of yourself and your theatre career?                                                 

Ben Cherry: I am a New York actor who went to the University of Michigan for Musical Theatre and (University of) North Carolina School of the Arts for Acting. I have worked in New York City on Broadway and in various regional theatres across the country. I've done my share of commercials and print ads and filmed a smattering of small TV roles. 

How would you summarize the story of Ragtime?

Ragtime is the story of America in the beginning of the 20th century and in particular three factions of society struggling to find stability in a rapidly evolving world. 

Can you tell us a bit about your character and the role he plays in the story?

I play Tateh, a Jewish Immigrant from Latvia who travels to America to give his young daughter a new life. He is a craftsman/artist who cuts out and sells paper silhouettes of celebrities to passersby on the New York City streets. He runs into hardships, dismal circumstances and dead ends in New York and his luck doesn't change after he flees with his daughter to Boston and then Philadelphia. Finally, after much struggle, he catches his break and his life changes. He becomes the epitome of the American Dream. Tateh represents the huge immigrant population arriving in America through Ellis Island, who became vital in shaping this country.  

What was your first impression of Ragtime when you initially discovered it? Has that first impression evolved over the course of preparing for this production at Flint Repertory Theatre?

I first encountered Ragtime when I was in college. My dad, a theatre fan, got tickets for us to see it as a developing musical trying out in Toronto. I remember being instantly taken by the vastness and depth of the storytelling. I remember thinking it was the most people I had ever seen on stage in a show before. There was a Black, a White and an immigrant ensemble along with the actors playing the main characters. I thought for many years that this musical had to be done in this grand way, with this many people to succeed. In preparing, rehearsing and seeing Michael Lluberes' vision for a small cast version of this huge story, I've changed my mind and now prefer the smaller theatre space and the compact cast telling this engrossing story in this intimate way.

What is the most rewarding aspect of helping to bring this modern classic musical to the Flint community?

There is something in this show for everyone from all walks of life. The cast is diverse and they hail from across the country, bringing a wide variety of experience in the theatre, film and TV to the table. I believe that the folks in the Flint community and beyond can identify with many of the important themes within the story, and perhaps see themselves in the characters. For me, I find it most rewarding to be part of storytelling that speaks to the heart of how we should treat one another as a community and as a nation, leading with kindness, openness and mutual respect.

What sets this production of Ragtime apart from other iterations?

Ragtime is not often done and certainly not generally attempted by smaller companies because of the sheer scale of the piece. Michael and team have taken on a challenging and demanding task and the design is incredibly unique and inspiring. They have a lot of surprises up their sleeves. I think what sets this production apart will be the incredible multi-talented ensemble and the gorgeous and sweeping scope of the design on the intimate Elgood stage.

What's your favorite song to perform in the show? Your favorite song that you don't perform?

I love my second act song “Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.” It is this fantastically fast patter song about Tateh's meteoric rise in the silent movie business. Truly a challenge to get all of those words out of my mouth while still making the story clear and there are great laugh lines in it. 

I have always been a big fan of “The Night that Goldman Spoke at Union Square” sung by Mother's Younger Brother as he starts to find his inner activist. It is an imagined meeting of the minds between him and Emma Goldman that takes his plotline to an intense and exciting place. It is a great number!

What would you say is the main takeaway of Ragtime? In other words, what will audiences come out of the theatre thinking about? 

I think they will walk away and think a bit about their own lives and how sharing this nation with people different than themselves has affected them for the better. The characters of Ragtime are all attempting to derive meaning from their experiences and from the way the world challenges them and changes them. I think we are all stronger as individuals and as a country if we can learn from misfortunes, gather strength from them and walk hand in hand into a brighter, enlightened future. 

Where can readers follow you online?

Instagram: @cherry1920


Tickets to Ragtime are currently available at, at the FIM Ticket Center box offices at FIM Whiting Auditorium and FIM Capitol Theatre, or by calling (810) 237-7333. Genesee County residents receive a 30% discount as a benefit of the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage.

Stay in touch with Flint Repetory Theatre on Instagram at @flintrepertorytheatre, on Facebook at and on their website at


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