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a Musical
by Terrence McNally (book), Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens (songs)

COMPANY : Atlanta Lyric Theatre
VENUE : Earl Smith Strand Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4448

SHOWING : April 12, 2013 - April 28, 2013



At the dawn of a new century, everything is changing… and anything is possible. Set in the volatile melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York, “Ragtime” weaves together three distinctly American tales — that of a stifled suburban mother, an inventive Jewish immigrant, and a daring young Harlem musician — united by their courage, compassion, and belief in the promise of the future. Their compelling stories intertwine to form a rich tapestry of hopes and dreams, struggles and triumphs, rhythm and rhyme–set to an epic, Tony Award-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. A colossal stage show based on the classic E. L. Doctorow novel, “Ragtime” also features a Tony Award-winning book by Terrence McNally.

Music Director BJ Brown
Director Alan Kilpatrick
Choreographer Jevares Myrick
Mother Christy Baggett
Ensemble Nick Battaglia
Harry Houdini Ian Blanco
Willie Conklin/Ensemble Daniel Burns
Emma Goldman Ingrid Cole
Ensemble Kathryn David
Ensemble George Deavours
Ensemble Kayce Grogan-Wallace
Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Kevin Harry
Edgar Allen Hill
Ensemble Monte Howell
Sarah Jeanette Illidge
Ensemble King Jones
Younger Brother Matthew John Kacergis
Booker T. Washington/Ensemble Jevares Myrick
Tateh Stanley Allyn Owen
Henry Ford/Ensemble Robby Owenby
Ensemble Becca Potter
Evelyn Nesbit Lyndsay Ricketson
Little Girl Leah Schultz
Ensemble Krystle Simmons
Father Bryant Smith
J.P. Morgan/Ensemble Robert Wayne
Grandfather Evan Weisman
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No Wheels, But Dream Intact
by playgoer
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Earl Smith Strand Theatre does not have a large stage or backstage area. As such, it cannot handle monumental stage effects. The fancy Ford owned by Coalhouse Walker, Jr. may have rolled on in full glory at the Fox in "Ragtime," but here it's represented by just a couple of standard-issue bentwood chairs in basic black. The song "Wheels of a Dream" comments on this automobile and is crucial to the themes of the show. Does it matter that we don't see the car? No. We see the actors seeing the car, and their reactions are what matter. The action moves smoothly, and the stylized destruction of the auto is neatly handled. A full-scale Ford onstage is not missed at all. (And given the mishap with a pushcart wheel at the Sunday performance I saw, it's probably best that no other wheels were involved!)

Kat Conley's scenic design uses every inch of the stage beautifully. In front of the cyclorama are arched and circular components suggesting partial clock faces. A balcony surrounds the playing area, and circular staircases at either downstage end allow access to it. From the up right balcony, there are stairs leading down to the central platform, with more stairs down to a lower platform. The lower downstage area is left free for much of the action to take place. Alan Kilpatrick's staging makes full use of the playing area. The multiple levels allow the full cast to appear onstage at once with little clutter.

The vocal power in this cast is amazing. A stronger, truer set of voices couldn't be asked for. The acting is also first-rate. When an ensemble is this consistently excellent, the direction deserves a great deal of the credit; shows don't come together all by themselves. Director Alan Kilpatrick and music director BJ Brown have molded a collection of fine individual talents into a moving, cohesive whole. The story of "Ragtime" comes through in gangbusters.

Jevares C. Myrick's choreography is effective, as are Lindsey Goodson Paris' costumes and George Deavours wigs. Mary Parker's lighting sets mood and focuses attention well. The only technical aspect that doesn't improve the production is Bobby Johnston's sound design. The muddled blast of sound coming through the speakers is heavy on the orchestra side of the mix, often making lyrics or dialogue nearly indecipherable, despite the valiant attempts of the splendidly projecting cast. I know that audience members near me had difficulty making out all the relationships in the cast list. Part of that was probably due to the large number of characters involved, but book author Terrence McNally introduces the individuals concisely upon their first appearance. This concision is a problem, though, when sound levels allow the orchestra to drown out important dialogue.

Even without understanding all that's going on, the visual flow of the production is impressive. There are epic, spectacular elements on view, and the panoply of action and music flows by with the momentum of a spectacularly directed Shakespearean play.

This is so truly an ensemble show that it isn't possible to single out cast members as standouts. Suffice it to say that Christy Baggett and Stanley Allyn Owen brought a tear to my eye as Mother and Tateh at their respectfully friendly first meeting in "Nothing Like the City." And there were tears in the eyes of many in the final moments of the show. This is a splendid production of a powerful, dramatic musical. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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