Sunday, June 06, 2004

Ragtime: A Bookend Musical of the 20th Century

I was having a little email exchange with FMT's Artistic Director, and Director of "Ragtime", Jay Manley. I was wondering if this production of "Ragtime" will be the biggest show that FMT has ever staged.

And it looks like it's in a tie with "Showboat" for that honor.

But the interesting comment Jay made was about how "Showboat" and "Ragtime" are "bookends of the American musical in the 20th century, both in development of the form, and in their treatment of racism."

Most folks think of "Oklahoma" as the break-through moment in musical theatre history when songs were extension of the scene and characters, not just excuses for singing and dancing. And it's true that "Oklahoma" may have been the first where every song reflected the characters' expression. But "Showboat" came first, and "Showboat" features such songs as well. Some of the songs were performances by the Showboat performers, but some were character driven.

Meanwhile "Ragtime" came at the end of the 20th century and seemed to recapture the glory of eras past in the musical theatre, while taking it to a new level of scope and sophistication. Time Magazine's critical appraisal following it's 1996 Broadway opening was that "Ragtime" was: "the last great musical of the 20th Century."

If you haven't seen "Ragtime", you can't miss this chance to see that, can you?

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