Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Ragtime: The Musical’s Acting, Singing, and Staging Are Strong and Well Executed

<em>Ragtime: The Musical</em> focuses on three families (from left): two Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, a WASP family from New Rochelle, NY, and an African-American couple from Harlem (photo by Scott Suchman)

Ragtime: The Musical focuses on three families (from left): two Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, a WASP family from New Rochelle, NY, and an African-American couple from Harlem (photo by Scott Suchman)

Simply put, Broadway Series South and the North Carolina Theatre‘s presentation of Ragtime: The Musical is well worth seeing. The acting, the staging, the singing, the choreography — they are all strong and well executed. The performances, the story, and the “message” of the play are overwhelming.

Based on the novel Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, the play gives a several “slices of life” from the first decade of the 20th century.

One “slice” concentrates on an upper-class white family: Kate Turner as Mother, Troy Bruchwalski as Father, and Donald Coggin as Mother’s Younger Brother. Another slice is the social circle of successful black ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Chris Sams) and his girlfriend, Sarah (Leslie Jackson). The third slice is that of a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe (Matthew Curiano as Tateh). These are the three main slices. And then there are slices of the lives of historical figures that exerted major influence on the lives of people of the time. Finally, there is a tiny slice of the lives of some Irish-American firemen.

The play is about the changing times and how even the smallest of actions can have unexpectedly huge consequences — a message that remains pertinent these days.

Leslie Jackson and Chris Sams star as Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah (photo by Scott Suchman)

Leslie Jackson and Chris Sams star as Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah (photo by Scott Suchman)

The opening tableau clearly draws the lines between the three main groups. Costuming, choreography, and body language all contribute to our initial impressions of each group. In the ensuing scenes, these impressions are fleshed out and reinforced.

Watch for the tiniest of details.

Handshakes: when are they offered? Accepted? Refused?

Acts of kindness and hospitality: who does and who does not invite others into their lives?

Other roadblocks to interaction: who sets them? And why? How are they bypassed? And by whom?

Behavior at a baseball game: who “joins the crowd,” and who does not?

Todd Berkich (top) and Mark Alpert (below) star as banker and financier J.P. Morgan and magician Harry Houdini (photo by Scott Suchman)

Todd Berkich (top) and Mark Alpert (below) star as banker and financier J.P. Morgan and magician Harry Houdini (photo by Scott Suchman)

Kevin Depinet’s set is minimalist. Changes in setting are signified by moving in (usually) small set pieces and by subtle changes in the projection on the backdrop. The projections also often highlight the subject matter and the mood of the various vignettes. Watch for dollar signs, clotheslines, the Statue of Liberty, and the like. The inclusion of a marching band on stage at one point is a nice touch.

The naming convention in the play is worth mentioning. While the historical figures are all named by their full names, the script only supplies the first and last name for one of the fictional characters: Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (the pianist). The white family is only identified as Mother, Father, Younger Brother, etc. The Jewish immigrant, on the other hand, is identified only by his first name: Tateh.

Direction and choreography by Marcia Milgrom Dodge sets a good pace. Transitions between scenes are handled masterfully and unobtrusively.

Costumes (designed by Gail Baldoni) help us discern associations between characters. They also establish times when certain characters are supposed to be seen as individuals or as generic.

If you like Broadway musicals, you will like this production of Ragtime: The Musical.

Sandy Zwier (top) and Donald Coggin (right) star as radical anarchist Emma Goldman and Mother's Younger Brother (photo by Scott Suchman)

Sandy Zwier (top) and Donald Coggin (right) star as radical anarchist Emma Goldman and Mother’s Younger Brother (photo by Scott Suchman)

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 13th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-RAGTIME-National-Tour-at-North-Carolina-Theatre-20160113; Jan. 13th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/ragtime/Event?oid=4907722; and Jan. 10th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article53990820.html. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 12th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, the Jan. 14th review by Jesse R. Gephart, and the Jan. 14th review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/on-jan-12-17-ragtime-the-musical-will-focus-an-unsentimental-lens-on-early-20th-century-america/, http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/ragtimes-story-is-still-relevant-despite-uneven-staging-and-should-be-seen-at-raleigh-memorial-auditorium/, and http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/01/ragtime-the-musical-at-raleigh-memorial-auditorium-does-the-late-e-l-doctorow-proud/, respectively.)

Broadway Series South and the North Carolina Theatre present RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 and 15 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 and 17 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.

TICKETS: $25.14-$107.14, except $20 Student Rush Tickets, sold — for cash only — one hour before curtain to students with ID.

BOX OFFICE:

Duke Energy Center Box Office: 919-996-8700 or info@dukeenergycenterraleigh.com (information only).

NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.

BSS GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-996-8707, group@raleighconvention.com, or http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south/group-sales.

NCT GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; groups@nctheatre.com; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.

Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/872829.

SHOW: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/ragtime-5922 and http://nctheatre.com/shows/ragtime.

VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.ragtimeontour.com/media.html.

THE TOUR: http://www.ragtimeontour.com/ and http://www.phoenix-ent.com/productions/ragtime/index.html.

TOUR CAST: http://www.ragtimeontour.com/cast.html.

TOUR CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.ragtimeontour.com/creative.html.

PRESENTERS:

Broadway Series South: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south, https://www.facebook.com/broadwayseriessouthraleigh, and https://twitter.com/BroadwaySouth.BSS 2016 Season: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south.

North Carolina Theatre: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre. NCT 2015-16 Season: http://nctheatre.com/show-season/201516-season.

VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium.

DIRECTIONS: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions.

PARKING: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking.

OTHER LINKS:

Ragtime (1975 novel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragtime_%28novel%29 (Wikipedia).

E.L. Doctorow (novelist, 1931-2015): http://www.eldoctorow.com/ (official website) and http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/10137 (Internet Broadway Database), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._L._Doctorow (Wikipedia).

Ragtime: The Musical (1996 Toronto, 1998 Broadway, 2003 West End, and 2009 Broadway revival): http://www.mtishows.com/ragtime-version-1 and http://www.mtishows.com/ragtime-version-2 (Music Theatre International), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/7352 (1998) and http://www.ibdb.com/Production/View/484345 (2009) (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragtime_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).

Stephen Flaherty (music): http://www.ahrensandflaherty.com/ (official website), http://www.ragtimeontour.com/creative.html (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/11668 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Flaherty (Wikipedia).

Lynn Ahrens (lyrics): http://www.ahrensandflaherty.com/ (official website), http://www.ragtimeontour.com/creative.html (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/7450 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Ahrens (Wikipedia).

Terrence McNally (book): http://www.terrencemcnally.com/ (official website), http://www.ragtimeontour.com/creative.html (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/8828 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrence_McNally (Wikipedia).

Marcia Milgrom Dodge (director/choreographer): http://www.marciamilgromdodge.com/ (official website), http://www.ragtimeontour.com/creative.html (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/109655 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcia_Milgrom_Dodge (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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