BWW Review: RAGTIME National Tour at North Carolina Theatre
Based on the 1975 E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name, Ragtime tells the story of three different races of America in the early 20th century: African Americans, white upper-class suburbanites, and Eastern European immigrants.
The original Broadway production opened on January 18th, 1998 in a season dominated by The Lion King. The production also received mixed critical reviews, with complaints that the enormous physical production overshadowed the problems critics had with the script. With all of that being said, Ragtime still received 13 Tony Award nominations (including Best Musical), and it went on to win 4 awards including Best Book of a Musical for author Terrence McNally and Best Original Score for the team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.
The staging for this national touring production is based on the 2009 critically acclaimed (yet short-lived) Broadway revival that originally debuted at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge keeps everything pared-down to minimal scenery designed by Kevin Depinet with some complementary projections designed by Mike Tutaj. What I found most interesting about the minimal staging was how well Dodge makes the most of it.
The entire company consists of mostly non-union actors display some very rich vocal performances from beginning to end. Among the individual performances, Chris Sams gives a commanding performance as Coalhouse Walker, Jr.; Kate Turner and Troy Bruchwalski both give caring performances as Mother and Father respectively; Donald Coggin is perfectly cast as Mother's idealistic younger brother; Matthew Curiano gives a heartfelt performance as the Jewish immigrant, Tateh; and Leslie Jackson truly gives a heartbreaking performance as Coalhouse's love interest, Sarah.
For newcomers to the show, the minimal staging may feel divisive to some. With that being said, it's still some great material (especially how the book, music, and lyrics all function as one single unit). However, if you are a hardcore fan of the piece, I'd say this national tour is worth checking out. After all, it's still a great American musical. This national touring production is currently playing at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium through January 17th.
For more information regarding the tour, please visit: http://www.ragtimeontour.com/