Review: 'Dinner and a Show' – Bristol's RAGTIME THE MUSICAL and The King George Inn

By: Mar. 23, 2015
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Both the Bristol Riverside Theater and The King George II Inn Historic Restaurant share an amazing riverfront view directly in front of the old Bristol river port and dock originally used for trade and travel. They also share a few more things in common. Both venues have been in the same location for decades or longer, both were originally utilized for different uses, both closed and re-opened and they each played host to some quite famous people.

We took the opportunity to visit the historic King George II Inn restaurant, known to be the oldest continuously operated Inn in America- circa 1681, guests of which included General George Washington and Presidents John Tyler, John Adams and James Madison among others. King George's new owners Robert Strasser and Bruce Lowe cordially treated me and a guest to a fine luncheon starting off with lobster bisque, cream of mushroom soup, crab imperial stuffed mushrooms, balsamic chicken sandwich, a pumpkin and red beet salad topped off with a caramel cheesecake. The King George offers a brunch, lunch, dinner and tavern menus as well catered parties.

We dined on the second floor with open spaced windows overlooking the rapids of the Delaware River. You can often meet Bristol Theater's cast and creative team enjoying dinner a quiet drink. For more information about the King George II Inn please visit http: or call 215.788.5536

Bristol Riverside Theater Presents "Ragtime- The Musical"

The opening number nicely sets the framework for the melting pot mix of people about to merge on the docks of the New York Harbor. Within the first 10 minuets the characters break into song and dance each representing three separate story lines that will intersect and mesh. The ensembles' uneasy dance moves set the scene for the obvious prejudices about to unfold as all three class groups test the waters of life in America and struggle for tolerance towards each other.

There are the generic 'suitable' long time white residents of New Rochelle A family simply lead by Father (David Edwards), Mother (Leslie Becker) and their son Edger (Ciaran Edward Barlow) and Mother's younger brother (Matt Leisy). Then there's Coalhouse Walker, Jr (Derrick Cobey), the charismatic jazz pianist, and his lover, Sarah (Ciji Prosser) as well as the underclass residents of Harlem. The third story line belongs to Tateh (Michael Thomas Holmes), a Jewish immigrant inspired by expectations of a better life for his daughter (Sofia Kalinda) as well as a group of Russian Jews all looking for hope and prosperity in America. Also on hand are such iconic figures as Henry Ford (Paul Weagraff), Emma Goldman played outstandingly by Sarah J. Gafgen,
Harry Houdini (Will Connell), Evelyn Nesbit (Chelsea Jean) and J.P. Morgan (Charles Michael Bendas).

Ragtime is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty. The music includes marches, Gospel, and ragtime both exhilarating and thought provoking. The songs are thoughtfully well written grabbing all the appropriate emotions and forwarding the plot so well that you barely recover from one scene when your are thrust into another drama. Outstanding songs include the show stopping opening number "Ragtime", "Getting' Ready Rag", "Your Daddy's Son" sung beautifully by Sarah "The Wheels of a Dream" by Sarah and Coalhouse, "Till We Reach That Day" by Sarah, "Gliding" sung by the multi talented Tateh to his daughter, "Back to Before" powerfully sung by Mother as she realizes her life and the world can never go back to what is was again, and of course "Make Them Hear You" by the broken yet brave Coalhouse.

The characters simply steal your heart and break your heart. The storyline is three faceted: the New Rochelle family whose insulated proper life is blown apart by a discovery in their garden that will change the lives of everyone. The charismatic, lady chasing Coalhouse Walker who learns that his love Sarah is long gone and worth pursuing to regain her respect and love and the Jewish immigrant simply seeking to live in freedom selling paper cutout silhouettes to support himself and his little daughter.
All three classes clash in unpredictable and seemingly impossible situations to overcome.

Director Keith Baker's Director's Notes say it best. "It is a musical with a remarkable and magnificent score, lyrics that would fill any songwriter's dream and a story so compelling and immediate that, scene after scene becomes unforgettable. It is after all the story of a time that many would prefer to leave in our past. We have moved on, haven't we? We find that it continues to haunt us and play out still in our 21st Century lives."

There is not a weak link in the principal cast both vocally and in portraying their characters. Leslie Becker's Mother is a strong hearted loving pro feminist; David Edwards' Father plays a stiff emblem of a man whose time has passed and he refuses to accept the future. The Jewish immigrants are lead by Tateh played by Michael Thomas Holmes, loving father and optimist who is clearly the nucleus/ entertainer of this production and played to near perfection. From the Harlem residents emerges Coalhouse Walker Jr., Derrick Cobey commands the role with power, dignity and sensitivity that gives way to heartfelt sorrow and righteous/reckless revenge. His sweet love Sarah played by the soft spoken Ciji Prosser simply shines both vocally and in character.

Creatively, Baker does a superb job directing the action, moods and fluidity of this intricate, complex, fast paced piece. Choreographing this 35 person cast is no simple task for Stephen Casey, yet is flows seamlessly as do the rather large bare bones yet affective set designs by Jason Simms. Stellar sound by Amy Altadonna and lighting by Deborah Constantine add to the overall enjoyment of a production that is destined for a Barrymore nod this year.

Ragtime plays at the Bristol Riverside Theater, 120 Radcliffe St, Bristol Pa through April 22. For tickets and information visit or call 215.785.0100


#1 King George Inn - courtesy King George Inn website, # 2 Sarah & Coalhouse Walker (Ciji Prosser and Derrick Cobey), # 3 Tateh and his daughter (Michael Thomas Holmes and Sofia Kalinda) courtest Bristol Riverside Theater, # 4 Derrick Cobey (Coalhouse Walker), Pati Buehler- BWW and Bristol Riverside Theater Artistic director for "Ragtime" Keith Baker - Terri Kraus, photographer


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