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Sprawling 'Ragtime' Rather Ragged PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 18 March 2011 00:00

"Ragtime," the 1998 Broadway musical based on the book by E.L. Doctorow, has always been one of my favorite shows. It opened March 11 in the Wilson Mainstage Auditorium of South Bend Civic Theatre.

Ragtime at the South Bend Civic TheatreCounting that, I have seen five “Ragtime” productions, including the Broadway extravaganza, two touring companies and a Michigan community theater. The last was my “rule of thumb ” for this show. Producing “Ragtime” is biting off a huge chunk of musical theater and sometimes it is just too huge to be well digested.

“Ragtime” earned Tony Awards for Best Book (by Terrence McNally), and Best Score (by composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens). It was edged out for the Best Musical honor by “The Lion King.”

Under the direction of Ted Manier, with music direction by Mrs. Rebecca A. Wilson, the narrative looks at three diverse groups in turn-of-the-century America. These are represented by upper class suburban whites in New Rochelle, African-Americans in Harlem and and Eastern European immigrants at Ellis Island.

As their lives cross-cross in the sprawling libretto, which is primarily sung-through with very little dialogue, a number of historical figures including Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, J.P. Morgan, Stanford White, Harry K. Thaw and Admiral Perry, appear briefly, with longer appearances by Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit and Emma Goldman.

Heading the primary groups are Kelli Armentrout and Michael Snyder as Mother and Father, Dominic Go as Mother’s Younger Brother, Matthew Pruitt as The Little Boy, and Gary Oesch as Grandfather; Quinton McMutuary and Terrilyn J. Dennie are Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah, respectively; with Steve Chung as Tateh and Natalie Rarick as his Little Girl.

The lush and lovely score is a blend of rousing choral numbers and powerfully poignant solos, some of which lead become duos and trios, The music almost never stops. Outstanding among the soloists is Armentrout, whose clear solid soprano voice expresses the changes Mother experiences going from unquestioning wife (“Journey On”) to a individual who can never go “Back to Before.”

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 April 2011 23:00
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