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Ragtime

Book:Terrence McNally
Music:Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics:Lynn Ahrens
Director:Frank Gilati
Musical Staging:Graciela Danielle
Production:Eugene Lee
Costumes:Santo Loquasto
Lighting:Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer
Sound:Jonathan Deans
Orchestration:William David Brohn
Music Supervisor:Jeffrey Huard
Music Director:David Loud
Opened:1/98 at the Ford Cente for Performing Arts
Cast:Brian Stokes Mitchell, Peter Friedman, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Mark Jacoby, Steven Sutcliffe, Tommy Hollis, Jim Corti, Judy Kaye, Lynnette Perry, Alex Strange, Conrad McLaren, Lea Michelle, Mike O'Carroll, Larry Daggett, Vanessa Townsell-Crisp and David Mucci
Based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow

Terrence McNally has streamlined E. L. Doctorow's epic novel about three turn-of-the-century New York families—one Wasp, one Jewish and one African American—into a $10 million production that is heartfelt and grand, but at times condescending. There's even an occasional trace of Noel Coward and Jerome Kern. Leading man Mitchell, as a black revolutionary, commands the stage with a beguiling magnetism and melting voice. He's supported by a top-flight production crew and a cast of tested talents, including the always melodious Audra McDonald. When Mitchell and McDonald wrap their formidable vocal cords around “Wheel of a Dream,” the show soars. Visually, too, there's much to admire, from the hand-painted daguerreotypes to the eye-popping, diaramic set and brilliant lighting. However, the musical assemblage careens into dull pedagogy at times, failing to retain Doctorow's trademark wit. As if to compensate for these flagging moments, Ragtime overindulges in uplifting sentimentality. But all in all, Ragtime is a solid effort, a gorgeous, toe-tapping salute to a country poised for change.


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