Monday, May 31, 2004

A Brief Intro to "Ragtime"

"Ragtime" started life as a best-selling novel, published in 1975 by E.L. Doctorow. It's a sweeping saga looking at the lives of people from all walks of life at the turn of the century. "Ragtime" manages to illuminate the struggles of three very different groups of people adapting to the turbulent turn of the century: the burgeoning immigrant population of lower New York, the WASP-y denizens of Westchester County and African-Americans caught in the time between the technical Emancipation provided after the Civil War and the the broader Civil Rights struggle still 40 years away.

One of the fascinating conventions of the novel is the mingling of purely fictional characters with some of the real-life newsmakers of the day. Those real-life characters range from characters with historical significance, from Emma Goldman to Booker T. Washington to Henry Ford, and also turn-of the century versions of pop-culture icons. Harry Houdini is one such icon still renowned today, but another, Evelyn Nesbit, is more obscure. Her tale, though, as part of a love triangle that devolves into the "Crime of the Century" (in 1906, no less!) really resonates in today's world of Michael Jackson, Scott & Laci Peterson and OJ Simpson. It makes "Ragtime" seem ahead of its time.

"Ragtime" was later made into a film starring a young Howard Rolllins as Coalhouse Walker.

The musical "Ragtime" started in Toronto and made its way to Broadway in 1998. Not only did it have a pedigreed production team including Terence McNalley, and Flaherty & Ahrens, the composing team behind "Once on this Island", but a dream cast including Broadway diva Marin Mazzie, Tony winner Audra McDonald and Broadway's sole old-style baritone heartthrob, Brian Stokes Mitchell.

The show raked in tons of well-deserved Tony's. And it was an instant American Musical Theatre Classic.

I saw the show and remember feeling not only swept away, but oddly proud...that this show demonstrated why Musical Theatre is still an art form at which our country excels. This show, although certainly featuring a large cast and a sweeping saga of story-line, does not rely on mere spectacle or bombast. It relies on a beautiful score, filled with, at turns, clever, stirring and poignant songs. It relies on a sterling adaptation of a great American novel. It relies on story and song; acting and singing...and mostly heart and soul.

And with the cast and production team Foothill has assembled, this will be your finest opportunity to see this great work in the flesh.

But more on them later.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Welcome to the show blog for FMT's "Ragtime"

As with "Candide", we are going to be keeping a record of everything that goes on behind-the-scenes as we bring "Ragtime" to the Smithwick Theatre stage this summer.

If you caught our last show blog you know this can cover everything from artist profiles to on- and off-stage snafus to just about any story that makes you think, "only in the theatre!"

And as with "Candide", there will be a discount available for blog readers. Stay tuned to get the promo code. I'll post it as soon as we have it.

If you never read the "Candide" blog, you can link to it in the sidebar and get an idea of what's to come.

Welcome aboard!

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