It’s Double Take December at Musical Cyberspace! Every musical pretty much has something one likes and something one doesn’t in it. This month I’ll be listing one of each for a range of musicals, a different one each day.
Something I Like: I love Ragtime. The show has a fantastic score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally manages to juggle its multiple narratives mostly successfully. That said, I think what I would like to highlight today is how much I adored all aspects of the original staging. In particular, I’d like to praise the phenomenal things that Graciela Daniele did with the musical staging and choreography of that production. If that production hadn’t basically paying for all of Livent’s costs, then it might have been the success it deserved to be. Even with all those extra expenses, the show kept its head above water for 2 years and was not the failure that the marketing team for the recent revival made it out to be in an attempt to advance their own cause.
Something I Don’t Like: I don’t have many specific quibbles with Ragtime that spring to mind. I’d have to sit with the show again and have a more thorough look. If I was pressed to name one thing in particular, it would be that it is sometimes easy to lose track of Mother’s Younger Brother’s journey, particularly because of how dominant the Coalhouse/Sarah narrative becomes. Thus, I do wish that the character featured just a little more in the score, which is where I think the fault lies.
Feel free to share your “double take” on Ragtime in the comment box!
RAGTIIIIIIIIIME (RAGTIME! RAGTIIIIIIIIIIME!). 🙂
What I Like: Oh, so many things. But you know what I find particularly exciting about it? Depending on the production and the cast, it can be completely different every time you see it. I saw the original cast on Broadway, with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald. They were such powerhouses that that was what I really came away remembering–Coalhouse and Sarah–even though the rest of the cast included Marin Mazzie, Mark Jacoby, and Judy Kaye. The Coalhouse storyline was the central one to the show, and then came Mother, Father and Mother’s Younger Brother (whose music I’ve always loved anyway). Fast forward more than ten years, to February 2011, when they did Ragtime at Northwestern University. I had some friends in it, including Coalhouse, and while he’s a great guy and he did an excellent job, he just wasn’t charismatic enough. I found it hard to understand what drew all of these men to his cause. You know where my focus was the whole time? On Tateh. I always liked his music, but this student actor gave it particular poignancy, and he was one of the standouts among the cast (there was admittedly a little bit of odd college casting going on as well). Tateh became the heart of the show in this production. And that’s a good thing. It makes it a dynamic theater-going experience, instead of the same show every time. (Oh, and I also love the score, and the book, and the visuals. It’s just great. Thinking about it is giving me goosebumps.)
What I Don’t Like: Hmmm. I agree with you, David, about Mother’s Younger Brother, because I think he’s a phenomenal character. I think he kind of deserves his own song, somewhere in between “That’s all it will be–talk, talk, talk!” and ending up at the Morgan Library singing “He Wanted to Say.” In the book he actually has an affair with Evelyn Nesbit–I’m not saying that needs to be in the show, but he is a somewhat larger presence in the book. I’d say that it’s really hard to pull off, but I saw a college production with plenty of things to quibble about and it still moved me immensely.