Ragtime (Broadway)

Ragtime (Broadway)

RAGTIME with music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and book by Terrence McNally based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, opened on January 18, 1998 on Broadway at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and ran for 834 performances and 27 previews grossing USD $77,694,537 with an average ticket price of USD $55.50. Following a pre-Broadway world premiere in Toronto which opened on December 8, 1996, it has its first Broadway preview on December 26, 1997, and closed on January 16, 2000.

Livent ➜ SFX ➜ PACE ➜ ClearChannelProduced by Livent (U.S.) Inc. headed by founders Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb, until spring 1998 when a new management team, headed by Michael Ovitz and investment banker Roy Furman, took over, then sold Livent (Canada and USA and it’s show assets including Ragtime) in Summer 1999 for $96 million to PACE Entertainment Corp.Pace Theatrical Group’s parent company SFX Entertainment until 2000 which sold SFX (including SFX Broadway, Inc. & SFX Theatrical Group, Inc. including Livent’s asset of Ragtime) again to Clear Channel Communications.

Directed by Frank Galati; Choreographed by Graciela Daniele; Musical Direction by David Loud; Orchestrations by William David Brohn; Scenic Design by Eugene Lee; Costume Design by Santo Loquasto; Lighting Design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer with Sound Design by Jonathan Deans and Dance music arranged by David Krane.

Starring Alex Strange (The Little Boy), Mark Jacoby (Father) [until April 1999], Marin Mazzie (Mother) [until Dec 20, 1998], Steven Sutcliffe (Mother’s Younger Brother) [until Dec 27, 1998], Conrad McLaren (Grandfather, Foreman), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Coalhouse Walker Jr.) [until Dec 27, 1998], Audra McDonald (Sarah) [until Dec 27, 1998], Tommy Hollis (Booker T. Washington), Peter Friedman (Tateh aka Baron Askenazy), Lea Michele (The Little Girl), Jim Corti (Harry Houdini), Mike O’Carroll (J. P. Morgan, Judge), Larry Daggett (Henry Ford, Policeman, Town Hall Bureaucrat), Judy Kaye (Emma Goldman) [until July, 1998], Lynnette Perry (Evelyn Nesbit), Kevin Bogue (Stanford White), Colton Green (Harry K. Thaw, Policeman), Rod Campbell (Admiral Peary, Reporter), Duane Martin Foster (Matthew Henson, Black Lawyer, Gang Member), Jeffrey Kuhn (Reporter, Fireman, Clerk), Anne L. Nathan (Brigit, Baron’s Assistant), Anne Kanengeiser (Kathleen, Second Bureaucrat, Welfare Official), Bruce Winant (Doctor, Dirty Old Man, White Lawyer), Vanessa Townsell-Crisp (Sarah’s Friend), Gordon Stanley (Trolley Conductor, Reporter, Charles S. Whitman), David Mucci (Willie Conklin), Joe Locarro (Conductor), Monica L. Richards and Keith LaMelle Thomas (Pas de Deux), Little Coalhouse (role alternated by Michael Redd and Shane Rogers); Ensemble: Shaun Amyot, Darlene Bel Grayson, Kevin Bogue, Sondra M. Bonitto, Jamie Chandler-Torns, Ralph Deaton, Rodrick Dixon, Bernard Dotson, Donna Dunmire, Adam Dyer, Duane Martin Foster, Patty Goble, Colton Green, Elisa Heinsohn, Anne Kanengeiser, Jeffrey Kuhn, Joe Langworth, Joe Locarro, Anne L. Nathan, Panchali Null, Mimi Quillin, Monica L. Richards, Orgena Rose, Gordon Stanley, Angela Teek, Keith LaMelle Thomas, Allyson Tucker, Leon Williams and Bruce Winant.

Swings: Karen Andrew, John D. Baker, Mark Cassius, Albert Christmas, Dioni Michelle Collins, Mary Sharon Dziedzi , Valerie Hawkins, Kennl Hobson and Todd Thurston.

Understudies: Darlene Bel Grayson (Sarah’s Friend), Sondra M. Bonitto (Sarah’s Friend), Rod Campbell (Father, Foreman, Trolley Conductor), Mark Cassius (Matthew Henson), Jamie Chandler-Torns (Evelyn Nesbit), Jim Corti (Tateh), Pierce Cravens (The Little Boy), Nicole Dos Santos (The Little Girl), Duane Martin Foster (Coalhouse Walker Jr., Booker T. Washington), Patty Goble (Mother), Colton Green (Harry Houdini, Charles S. Whitman), Valerie Hawkins (Emma Goldman, Brigit, Welfare Official, Baron’s Assistant), Elisa Heinsohn (Evelyn Nesbit), Anne Kanengeiser (Mother), Jeffrey Kuhn (Mother’s Younger Brother, Harry Houdini), Joe Langworth (Mother’s Younger Brother, Harry Houdini), Joe Locarro (Mother’s Younger Brother), Anne L. Nathan (Emma Goldman), Monica L. Richards (Sarah), Orgena Rose (Sarah), Angela Teek (Sarah), Todd Thurston (Father, Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, Grandfather, Admiral Peary, Charles S. Whitman), Leon Williams (Booker T. Washington) and Bruce Winant (Tateh, Henry Ford, Willie Conklin).

Musical Supervisor: Jeffrey Huard; Musical Coordinator: John Monaco; Conducted by David Loud; Associate Conductor: James Moore; Concert Master: Paul Woodiel; Violin: Blair Lawhead, Cecelia Hobbs Gardner, Chris Cardona, Lesa Terry and Ella Rutkovsky; Viola: Susan Follari and Richard Clark; Cello: Jenny Langham and Vivian Israel; Bass: Bob Renino; Flute/Piccolo: Brian Miller; Clarinet/E. Flat Clarinet: Owen Kotler; Oboe/English Horn: Bill Meredith; Flute/Alto Sax/Soprano Sax/ Bass Clarinet: Vincent DellaRocca; Trumpet: Jeffrey Kievit and Christian Jaudes; French Horns: Paul Riggio and Lisa Pike; Trombone: Charles Gordon; Tuba/Baritone Horn: Earl McIntyre; Synthesizer I: Steve Marzullo; Synthesizer II: James Moore; Drums: Marty Morell; Percussion: Bruce Doctor; Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin: Greg Utzig; Music Contractor: Susan Follari.

Projection Design by Wendall K. Harrington; Associate Costume Design: Janet Grant and Mitchell Bloom; Assistant Lighting Design: Edward Pierce; Assistant Costume Design: Hugh Hamrick and Hyun-Joo Kim; Associate Sound Design: Christopher Jordan and Peter Hylenski; Projection Programmer: Paul Vershbow; Magic Illusions by Franz Harary.

Livent Senior VP, Creative Affairs: Marty Bell; General Manager and Livent Senior VP, Production: Frank P. Scardino; Company Manager: Jim Brandeberry; Associate Company Manager: Ken Davenport; Technical Director & Production Manager: Peter W. Lamb; Technical Supervisor: Robert Whelan; Production Stage Manager: Randall Whitescarver; Stage Manager: Dean R. Greer; Assistant Stage Manager: Bernita Robinson and Robbie Young; Assistant Production Manager: Corin Gutteridge.

Casting: Beth Russell and Arnold Mungioli; Production Costume Coordinator: Janet Grant; Dance Captain: Keith LaMelle Thomas; Fight direction by Joe Bostick; Additional fight staging by B. H. Barry; New York Press Representative: Mary Bryant and Wayne Wolfe; General Press Representative: Ian Rand; Promotions: Keith Hurd; Online Marketing: Toby Simkin / Theatre.com; Photographer: Catherine Ashmore and Logo Design by Scott Thornley & Company, Inc.

Replacements

Donna Bullock (Mother) [Dec 22, 1998 – Jan 16, 2000], Darlesia Cearcy (Sarah) [Sep 1999 – Jan 16, 2000], Joseph Dellger (Father) [Sep 1999 – Jan 16, 2000], John Dossett (Father) [Apr 1999 – Sep 1999], LaChanze (Sarah) [Dec 29, 1998 – Sep 1999], John Rubinstein (Tateh) [Dec 22, 1998 – Aug 01, 1999], Michael Rupert (Tateh) [Aug 03, 1999 – Jan 16, 2000], Alton Fitzgerald White (Coalhouse Walker Jr.) [Dec 29, 1998 – Jan 16, 2000], James Stovall (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Michelle Dawson (Evelyn Nesbit), Michele Ragusa (Evelyn Nesbit), Janine LaManna (Evelyn Nesbit), Erick Devine (J. P. Morgan / Foreman), David Masenheimer (Henry Ford), Bernie Yvon (Harry Houdini), Tom Toner (Grandfather / Reporter) [Dec 22, 1998 – Jan 16, 2000], Tina Fabrique (Sarah’s Friend), Michael Hyatt (Sarah’s Friend), Scott Carollo (Mother’s Younger Brother), Christopher Cordell (The Little Boy), Pierce Cravens (The Little Boy / Alternate), Anthony Blair Hall (The Little Boy), Davon Harris (Little Coalhouse / Alternate), Isaiah S. Henderson (Little Coalhouse / Alternate), Landel Thorman (Little Coalhouse / Alternate), Dara Paige Bloomfield (The Little Girlm/ Alternate), Elizabeth Lundberg (The Little Girl), Paul Harman (Doctor / Child Buyer/ Ensemble), Ron Trenouth (Doctor / Child Buyer / Ensemble), Ann Van Cleave (Kathleen / 2nd Bureaucrat / Welfare Official / Ensemble), Bernard Dotson (Pas de Deux), Deidre Lang (Pas de Deux / Ensemble), Eric Jordan Young (Pas de Deux / Ensemble), Ensemble: Johmaalya Adelekan, James D. Beeks, Leslie BellAmy Bodnar, Albert Christmas, Roberta Duchak, Mary Sharon Dziedzic, Lovena Fox, Sean Grant, Jeff HairstonRosena M. Hill, Adam Hunter, Rusty Mowery, Kimberly Dawn Neumann, Zoie Quinde, Kimberly JaJuan, Josh Tower, Joseph Webster, Mindy Franzese Wild and Laurie Williamson.

Swings: Sherry Boone, Susan Burk, Michael-Demby Cain, Robert Barry Fleming, Jacquelyn Hodges and Janice Lorraine.

Understudies: Karen Andrew (Pas de Deux), John D. Baker (Conductor, Policeman, Town Hall Bureaucrat, Reporter, Clerk, Stanford White, Harry K. Thaw, Doctor, Child Buyer, Fireman), Amy Bodnar (Evelyn Nesbit), Rod Campbell (Grandfather), Albert Christmas (Matthew Henson, Pas de Deux, Black Lawyer, Gang Member), Bernard Dotson (Pas de Deux), Roberta Duchak (Mother), Mary Sharon Dziedzic (Kathleen, Welfare Official, Baron’s Assistant, Brigit, 2nd Bureaucrat), Lovena Fox (Sarah), Valerie Hawkins (Kathleen, 2nd Bureaucrat), Kennl Hobson (Matthew Henson, Black Lawyer, Gang Member), Joe Langworth (Harry K. Thaw, Stanford White), Gordon Stanley (J. P. Morgan, Judge), Todd Thurston (Willie Conklin, Foreman, Trolley Conductor, Conductor, Policeman, Town Hall Bureaucrat, Reporter, Clerk, Doctor, Child Buyer, Fireman), Allyson Tucker (Pas de Deux), Ann Van Cleave (Mother) and Leon Williams (Coalhouse Walker Jr.).

Assistant Costume Design: Melanie Huston and Nancy Granfield; Associate Scenic Design: Randi Savoy; Assistant Scenic Design: Harry Matheu; Assistant Stage Mgr: David Horton Black; Production Supervisor: Randall Whitescarver; Production Stage Manager: Tom Capps; Dance Captain  Susan Burk; Assistant Dance Captain: Bernard Dotson and Assistant Fight Captain: Colton Green.

The Broadway theatre supersite Buy Broadway OnlineAs Founder and CEO of Theatre.com and BuyBroadway.com.  The pioneer in moving the Broadway industry onto the internet. The theatre press branded me as “Toby is the man pushing theatre, kicking and screaming, into cyberspace.” What started in 1989 as a Broadway industry service called ShowCall via dialup BBS for members of the League of American Theatre Producers evolved onto the world wide web in the early 90’s, and shortly after this, the vast majority of Broadway shows (starting with my production of Victor/Victoria) and theatrical organizations followed. The “Super site of Broadway” became a publicly traded company, prior to my re-branding it as Theatre.com at the Minskoff Theatre.

The global theater supersite theatre.comDescribed by Variety Magazine as a “marketing powerhouse“, it was the single largest theatre community in the world with over 180,000 active members (in the 1990’s this was massive). From buying official Broadway tickets and souvenirs, providing detailed global show listings, interactive show study & educational guides, live streaming shows and events (including many Opening Nights live broadcasts), industry news from major theatre journalists, pictures and videos, games, messaging directly to Broadway cast’s backstage or even licensing a musical, theatre.com offered it all in a single, easy-to-use interface to theatregoers globally.

RAGTIME

Ragtime Broadway Poster Ragtime Broadway Program ON Ragtime 1998 Broadway poster tony winnerRagtime 1998 Broadway poster program cover Ragtime 1998 Broadway poster premiere Ragtime 1998 Broadway novel cover Ragtime 1998 Broadway poster credits Ragtime 1998 Broadway marquee night Ragtime 1998 Broadway marquee day Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 2 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 4 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 9 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 6b Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 6 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 5 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 9a Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 7 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 7a Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 8a Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 6a Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 3 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 2a Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 1 Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 4a Ragtime 1998 Broadway Photo 8Ragtime Broadway Program Ragtime Broadway Poster awards www Ragtime Broadway e1616182724871InTheater Magazine Ragtime

Prologue (Tony Awards):

Wheels of a Dream
Brian Stokes Mitchell & Audra McDonald
Jessye Norman Tribute
Kennedy Centre Honors:

Toronto & Broadway Press Reels:

SM WeChatSM WeChat Channel
🇨🇳 in China, all foreign sites are blocked, scan my WeChat Channel QR to watch:
QR WeChat Channel

AWARDS

1998 Tony Awards

  • WINNER Best Book of a Musical
  • WINNER Best Original Musical Score
  • WINNER Best Featured Actress in a Musical – Audra McDonald
  • WINNER Best Orchestrations
  • Nominee Best Musical
  • Nominee Best Actor in a Musical – Peter Friedman
  • Nominee Best Actor in a Musical – Brian Stokes Mitchell
  • Nominee Best Actress in a Musical – Marin Mazzie
  • Nominee Best Scenic Design
  • Nominee Best Costume Design
  • Nominee Best Lighting Design
  • Nominee Best Choreography
  • Nominee Best Direction of a Musical

1998 Drama Desk Awards

  • WINNER Outstanding New Musical
  • WINNER Outstanding Book of a Musical
  • WINNER Outstanding Music
  • WINNER Outstanding Lyrics
  • WINNER Outstanding Orchestrations
  • Nominee Outstanding Actor in a Musical – Peter Friedman
  • Nominee Outstanding Actor in a Musical – Brian Stokes Mitchell
  • Nominee Outstanding Actress in a Musical – Marin Mazzie
  • Nominee Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical – Steven Sutcliffe
  • Nominee Outstanding Choreography
  • Nominee Outstanding Direction of a Musical
  • Nominee Outstanding Set Design of a Musical
  • Nominee Outstanding Costume Design
  • Nominee Outstanding Lighting Design

1998 Theatre World Awards

  • WINNER  Steven Sutcliffe

1998 Drama League Awards

  • WINNER Distinguished Production of a Musical
  • WINNER Outstanding New Broadway Musical

1998 New York Drama Critics Circle Awards

  • WINNER Best Musical

1998 Outer Critics Circle Awards

  • WINNER Outstanding New Broadway Musical Winner
  • Nominee Outstanding Director Of A Musical – Frank Galati
  • Nominee Outstanding Costume Design – Santo Loquasto
  • Nominee Outstanding Choreography – Graciela Daniele
  • Nominee Outstanding Actress In A Musical – Marin Mazzie
  • Nominee Outstanding Actor In A Musical – Brian Stokes Mitchell
  • WINNER Outstanding Featured Actor In A Musical – Peter Friedman
  • Nominee Outstanding Lighting Design – Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer
  • Nominee Outstanding Featured Actress In A Musical – Audra Mcdonald
  • Nominee Outstanding Set Design – Eugene Lee

MUSICAL NUMBERS

Act One:

  • “Ragtime” (Company);
  • “Goodbye, My Love” (Marin Mazzie);
  • “Journey On” (Mark Jacoby, Marin Mazzie, Peter Friedman);
  • “The Crime of the Century” (Lynnette Perry, Steven Sutcliffe, Ensemble);
  • “What Kind of Woman” (Marin Mazzie);
  • “A Shtetl iz Amerike” (Peter Friedman, Lea Michele, Immigrants);
  • “Success” (Peter Friedman, Mike O’Carroll, Jim Corti, Ensemble);
  • “Gettin’ Ready Rag” (Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ensemble);
  • “Henry Ford” (Larry Daggett, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ensemble);
  • “Nothing Like the City” (Peter Friedman, Marin Mazzie, Alex Strange, Lea Michele);
  • “Your Daddy’s Son” (Audra McDonald);
  • “New Music” (Mark Jacoby, Marin Mazzie, Steven Sutcliffe, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald, Ensemble);
  • “Wheels of a Dream” (Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald);
  • “The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square” (Steven Sutcliffe, Judy Kaye, Ensemble);
  • “Lawrence, Massachusetts” (Ensemble);
  • “Gliding” (Peter Friedman);
  • “Justice” (Brian Stokes Mitchell, Ensemble);
  • “President” (Audra McDonald);
  • “Till We Reach That Day” (Vanessa Townsell-Crisp, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Judy Kaye, Steven Sutcliffe, Marin Mazzie, Peter Friedman, Ensemble)

Act Two:

  • “Henry Houdini, Master Escapist” (Alex Strange, Jim Corti);
  • “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy” (Brian Stokes Mitchell);
  • “Coalhouse Demands” (Ensemble);
  • “What a Game!” (Mark Jacoby, Alex Strange, Ensemble);
  • “Atlantic City” (Lynnette Perry, Jim Corti);
  • “New Music” (reprise) (Mark Jacoby);
  • “Atlantic City” (Part Two) (Ensemble);
  • “The Crime of the Century” (reprise) (Lynnette Perry);
  • “Henry Houdini, Master Escapist” (reprise) (Jim Corti);
  • “Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.” (Peter Friedman);
  • “Our Children” (Marin Mazzie, Peter Friedman);
  • “Sarah Brown Eyes” (Brian Stokes Mitchell, Audra McDonald);
  • “He Wanted to Say” (Judy Kaye, Steven Sutcliffe, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Coalhouse’s Men);
  • “Back to Before” (Marin Mazzie);
  • “Look What You’ve Done” (Tommy Hollis, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Coalhouse’s Men);
  • “Make Them Hear You” (Brian Stokes Mitchell);
  • “Ragtime” (reprise)
  • “Wheels of a Dream” (reprise) (Company)

KEY HISTORICAL CHARACTERS

Many of the characters in Ragtime are real people who lived during the turn of the twentieth century:

EVELYN NESBIT
Evelyn Nesbit lived from 1884-1967. She was known as the ‘Girl on the Red Velvet Swing.’ Although she was a model and chorus girl in show business since she was a young, her career really took off after her marriage to Harry Kendall Thaw when she was twenty. Just two years into her abusive marriage, her husband killed an old family friend who had sexually taken advantage of Nesbit when she was a young teenager. After this, she received a reputation as a “lethal beauty” and continue do onto a successful career, but was ultimately unhappy. She attempted suicide in 1926, which led to her steady public downfall. Ragtime plays on the public perception of Nesbit to fuel her character.

HARRY KENDALL THAW
Harry K. Thaw lived from 1871-1947. He was the husband of Evelyn Nesbit before their divorce while he was in an asylum. He was known to be incredibly violent his whole life, and the violence did not stop when he was pursuing and married to Nesbit. Thaw was born to a very wealthy family, which is how he was able to get by in life and maintain the lifestyle he did. When he shot and killed Stanford White, Thaw’s mother made it such that he would not go to prison, but instead have a comfortable stay at an asylum where he was treated like royalty.

STANFORD WHITE
Stanford White lived from 1853-1906. He was a famous architect. He was a family friend of the Nesbits and served as a mentor to Evelyn Nesbit. After raping Evelyn when she was a young teenager, he remained a friend of the family. Nesbit married Harry K. Thaw a few years later. Not soon into their marriage on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, White and Thaw crossed paths, and Thaw shot White four times, killing him.

HENRY FORD
Henry Ford lived from 1863-1947. He is well known for creating the first Ford Model T automobile. He is also famous for the assembly line. The assembly line cut down the tasks workers had to do, creating more jobs, and cutting down the overall manufacturing time of the automobile. Ford was strongly anti-war and believed in peace and pacifism. Despite this, Ford was anti-Semitic, meaning he was prejudiced toward Jews.

J.P. MORGAN
J.P. Morgan lived from 1837-1913. He started off his career as an accountant and later became a partner in the firm Drexel, Morgan and Company. Today, his name is associated with banking and an avant garde lifestyle. He is also known for reorganizing and revitalizing the railroad industry in the US at the turn of the 20th century. His company held a monopoly over many financial institutions in the country until his death.

HARRY HOUDINI
Harry Houdini lived from 1874- 1926. Born Ehrich Weisz, Houdini was a Hungarian immigrant and illusionist. He moved to the United States with his family when he was just two years old. He quickly rose to fame after being able to evade handcuffs and jail. He did not maintain his health and, after inviting university student, J. Gordon Whitehead, to punch his abdomen, her died of peritonitis, or an inflammation of the abdominal lining. In Ragtime, Houdini represents the possibility of immigrant success for Tateh.

EMMA GOLDMAN
Emma Goldman lived from 1869- 1940. She was a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant, much like Ragtime’s Tateh. She was a strong proponent for freedom of expression, education and sexual freedom for women, and workers’ unions. She is seen as a political anarchist, constantly pushing against repressive societal norms.

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
Booker T. Washington lived from 1856-1915. He was the founder of what is now known as Tuskegee University. He was one of the most influential spokespersons for African Americans at the time. Though born a slave, he and his family moved after the abolition of slavery, and he worked as a janitor in order to pay for schooling. He believed that African Americans should focus less on trying to get equal social and political rights, and more on educating themselves so they could uplift their family financially, which, in turn, would lead to the rights for which they were currently fighting. Washington’s ideals of what the Black man should work toward is in direct contrast with what Ragtime’s Coalhouse believed was more important.

CHARLES WHITMAN
Charles Whitman lived from 1968- 1947. He served as the 41st governor of New York from 1915- 1918. In Ragtime, he is not yet the governor. He is the State District Attorney. Later in his life, he served as President of the American Bar Association. JACOB RIIS Jacob Riis lived from 1849-1914. He was a Danish immigrant who came to America in 1870. Riis is most famously known for his book, How the Other Half Lives. His book branded him a social reformer because he did not shy away from the living conditions that low income families faced in New York. The book is filled with photos by Riis, which were hard to look at and hard to ignore.

SIGMUND FREUD
Sigmund Freud lived from 1856- 1939. He was an Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher. He is known for being the forerunner of psychoanalysis, which attempts to unpack the deeper meanings behind patients’ dreams and subconscious. The ‘id,’ ‘ego,’ and ‘superego’ and the Oedipus and Electra Complexes are all Freudian theories!

SYNOPSIS

Act One

It’s New York City at the turn of the 20th century and three different communities welcome the audience to their world. First, an upper-class white family from the wealthy suburb of New Rochelle: Mother, Father, Mother’s Younger Brother, Grandfather, and the Little Boy, Edgar.

Next, in Harlem, is the African-American community, where the beautiful Sarah enjoys the new music of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Lastly, Jewish immigrants moving into the tenements of the Lower East Side find their home, namely artist Tateh from Latvia and his young daughter. The only connections these communities have to each other are the celebrities they all know and read about: businessmen J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford, activists Booker T. Washington and Emma Goldman, and entertainers Harry Houdini and Evelyn Nesbit, who became a star when her lover murdered her wealthy husband.

Mother and Father say goodbye as he leaves on an expedition to the North Pole, leaving Mother alone for the first time in her life. His ship passes Tateh’s: Father thinks about how the immigrants “don’t have a chance” in his country, Tateh wonders why anyone would leave America.

Mother’s Younger Brother is always trying to find his passion, and for now it’s Evelyn Nesbit. He watches her perform and professes his love for her. She kisses him for the attention of the press, but doesn’t really have any interest in him.

After finding an African-American baby in her garden, Mother invites the child’s mother, Sarah, into the Family home, claiming responsibility for them, even though she knows her husband would not approve.

Immigrants arrive at Ellis Island, and Tateh tries to make a living selling drawings on a cart on the street corner. As his Little Girl becomes sick, Tateh becomes desperate for money. When a wealthy stranger offers to buy her from him, Tateh is angered and becomes disgusted in his new country. He thinks of the success immigrant Harry Houdini, and Tateh decides to sell his cart and try his luck somewhere else.

Coalhouse introduces his new music, called ragtime, and sings lovingly about Sarah, whom he can’t find after he broke her heart. When he learns she’s in New Rochelle, he comes up with a plan to win her back, starting with a visit to the Ford Factory to buy the new Model T.

On his way to Sarah, Coalhouse is accosted by a volunteer fire squad who are angered by the site of a black man driving his own car. At the same time, Sarah thinks about how her heartbreak and fear led to the baby in her arms. Coalhouse finally makes it to the Family house and is shocked to learn he has a son. Though Sarah turns him down at first, he persists courting her, eventually leading to Mother inviting him inside. Coalhouse tells her about his plans to support his family playing ragtime, and Sarah and he reunite.

Mother, Younger Brother, Sarah, and Coalhouse have formed a tight-knit bond, which upsets Father as he comes home. Father grapples how much he has missed and how unsure he is of the changing world. Coalhouse and Sarah are inspired by the words of activist Booker T. Washington and dream of a great life for their son.

In a Worker’s Hall, Emma Goldman rallies the group, talking about the textile mills in Massachusetts, where the workers’ strike against their working conditions has turned violent. Tateh, who was working there, escapes with Little Girl, showing her a flipbook of moving images he invented to calm her down. When the train conductor sees it and buys it from him, Tateh realizes he’s invented a product people will buy.

In New Rochelle, Coalhouse and Sarah are stopped by the volunteer fire squad again. When Coalhouse refuses to give them the money they demand, the group destroys Coalhouse’s Model T and rolls it into the lake. When Coalhouse is not able to find comfort in the justice system, Sarah goes to a campaign rally to convince the Vice Presidential candidate to help them. As she approaches him, J.P. Morgan mistakes her for an assassin, and she’s beaten to death by Secret Service. As she’s buried, people wonder when every American will truly have equality.

Act Two

In a dream sequence, The Little Boy watches Harry Houdini escape a dynamite-covered box. When he wakes from his nightmare, he warns Mother something bad will happen.

Following Sarah’s death, Coalhouse decides to take matters into his own hands and pursue his own justice. He kills several fireman and bombs the volunteer fire house, but Booker T. Washington condemns his actions. Still, other young angry men think Coalhouse has the right idea and support him. Father is frustrated at Mother for making them the center of the Coalhouse scandal, since they still have custody of Sarah and the baby. Mother is upset and urges Father to talk to their son about what is going on, but he is too horrified by all the immigrants suddenly surrounding him in their world to do so.

Father moves the family to Atlantic City to get away from the chaos in New York. As they walk along the boardwalk, they see Tateh directing a film crew under the name “Baron Ashkenazy:” he has since reinvented himself as a movie director. Atlantic City is full of Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini, and other celebrities who are in the down spiral of their careers. As The Little Boy and The Little Girl become friends, so do Mother and Tateh.

In New York, Coalhouse and his followers, including Mother’s Younger Brother, threaten to blow up J.P. Morgan’s library. Father leaves Atlantic City, having been called in to help reason with Coalhouse, and promises Mother all will be back to normal soon. Mother knows it won’t. Booker T. Washington convinces Coalhouse not to blow up the building, reminding him of the legacy he would be leaving for his son. In the end, Coalhouse tells the group that it’s not violence that will make a difference, but words and the power of each of them sharing their story. As Coalhouse and Father make up, Coalhouse leaves the library and is immediately killed by police.

The Little Boy decides to fulfill Coalhouse’s dream to make sure each of their voices are heard. The play ends with each of the characters telling their stories and what happens in their future, all as America becomes more of a melting pot each day.

Ragtime shepherd Marty Bell, at the time Senior VP, Creative Affairs of Livent is the man who brought the idea of Ragtime to Garth Drabinsky at Livent. For the historical record, here are his fascinating notes on development of the show…

Headshot Marty BellSome thoughts about “RAGTIME”

by Marty Bell

–In 1975, my wife, who was an editorial assistant at Random House, brought home a galley of a new novel by E.L. Doctorow entitled Ragtime. At the time I was a sportswriter working for Dick Schaap at Sport Magazine. Though I had no basis for this, when I read it, I dreamt that I was going to produce this as a musical someday.

–In about 1990, I had been a producer of two shows, and become friends with Peter Stone, whose writing and spirit (and humor) I so admired. I suggested we explore a musical of Ragtime. We had a good meeting with Jerry Herman at his townhouse and he showed interest in writing the score but would not commit. Stone and Edgar Doctorow each had houses in the Hamptons area, were social friends and so Peter arranged a pitch meeting for us. Peter’s theory was that successful musicals had to be built around one main character and he believed Ragtime was Mother’s story. Doctorow did not approve of that approach and turned us down..

–In 1993, at the suggestion of Hal Prince, Garth Drabinsky invited me to visit with him in Toronto to discuss becoming the person ushering creative affairs at Livent. I arrived at his office with a list of ideas for musicals and suggestions for collaborators. Ragtime was on top of the list. Garth promptly read the book, got very excited and soon persuaded Doctorow to grant us the rights.

–The night we acquired the rights, Garth and I flew to NY to check in on Vanessa Williams in Kiss of the Spider Woman. After the show, we went downstairs backstage to Brian Mitchell’s dressing room and told him, ‘we just optioned a book today that’s going to change your life‘.

–We commissioned Terence McNally, whom we had each worked with at different stages on Kiss of the Spider Woman, to write a treatment. Garth had worked in the movie business and this was a standard practice there, though a bit unusual in musical theatre. When Terrence’s treatment arrived, I read the very first page in which he had the characters introducing themselves and their stories in the third person and I knew immediately we had something special and different here.

–Garth was not that familiar with the Broadway composer and lyricist pool. At this point, he had only worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber — and we both believed we needed American voices. Garth asked Hal, how do you know people can write this score? Hal suggested auditioning them. Hal meant asking one team to write a few songs. But this was Garth; we gave nine teams of composer/lyricists—some with track records, some very early in their careers– $2000 each and asked them to write four songs. I still have the cassettes and listen to them frequently. Every one has great songs that linger in my mind. (Someday, if the writers whom I’ve never revealed agree, I need to convince Jennifer Ashley Tepper to do an evening of The Ragtime Tapes at 54 Below.)

–I was assigned to contact the list of songwriters. When I called Lynn Ahrens, who was a friend, she turned me down. She told me she and Steve Flaherty had other commitments, but my hunch was she was not interested in the competition. But Steve called me, I think the very next morning, and said he wanted to persuade Lynn to do this. He heard this show in his head.

–When we had all nine cassettes, we brought Edgar Doctorow up to Toronto and he, Garth and I listened together. It was a dazzling day. When Edgar heard Ahrens and Flaherty’s first act closer, “Till We Reach That Day,” he was sold.

–At that first job interview with Garth, he asked me how we would develop new shows. I suggested we take over a university’s theatre department each summer, engage their students as interns, house the actors and creative teams in the dorms and work around the clock. So we made an arrangement with York University, near the new Ford Center that we operated and where Hal’s production of Show Boat was playing. In our first summer there, we did two-week workshops of six different shows, including Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for the New World. By the second summer we had a first act of Ragtime. We had brought Frank Galati and Graciela Daniele on board as director and choreographer and we organized a reading.

–The cast that our casting team of Beth Russell and Arnie Mungioli assembled for the first reading blew my mind: Donna Murphy read Mother, Joel Grey read Tateh, Susan Egan read Evelyn Nesbit, Tovah Feldshuh read Emma Goldman and, of course, Brian Mitchell (he wasn’t Stokes just yet) and Audra McDonald read Coalhouse and Sarah. (The York University student interns were all part of the ensemble.)

–On our first thrilling day of rehearsal, we did a readthrough. Afterwards, Lynn and Steve and Frank and Terrence and Garth and I talked it through and someone said, “We have the amazing Audra McDonald here and she doesn’t have enough to do.” The next afternoon, I got a call at my office from Lynn asking Garth and me to come by the university. When we got there, they sat us down as Audra sang “Your Daddy’s Son” for the first time. It wrecked me. Lynn and Steve had written it overnight. That’s how things happened those great summers at York.

–When Donna took The King & I job, we needed a Mother., a pivotal role. We had one of those amazing audition days where every Broadway leading lady with the right vocal range came through the door. You want to hire everyone. It came down to Marin Mazzie and Carolee Carmello. Marin got this one, but Carolee starred in our next show, Parade. Marin lived a block from me in Toronto and I often drove her home from the theatre. It gave us a chance to get to know each other well. Her relationship with Jason was just developing. The show was long and during the Sunday matinees there was always a town car outside the stage door. She ran out to catch the last shuttle back to NY. She scurried so fast when the curtain fell, I thought she was flying home in her costume.

–The following April, we had a full script and did a workshop at the Canadian Opera studios. The first day of rehearsals was the first night of Passover. Garth led the entire company through a seder, in which everyone read from the Haggadah, and Judy Kaye (now in the role of Emma Goldman) sang the holiday songs. We talked a lot that night about the experience of the Jews escaping Egypt and the African Americans escaping the south.. It set us off with a poignant start.

–The show was gorgeous at the Ford Center. Despite its size, with its boxes all around the orchestra, the room had an intimacy. When Show Boat closed at the Gershwin, there was pressure from the Nederlander Organization to bring Ragtime right in. But we were in the midst of combining two theatres on the New 42nd Street into the New York Ford Center and Garth was dead set on opening it with Ragtime, which was totally understandable. So we kept a company in Toronto for close to a year and opened a second company in Los Angeles. Despite the beauty of the Ford Center in NY, its balcony was distant from the stage and it lacked the intimacy the show had in Toronto. I keep hearing about that from people who saw it in both places, especially Michael Riedel.

Ragtime won the Drama Desk for best musical that year over The Lion King. After the ceremony, I went to a restaurant in the theatre district and found myself sitting at a table right next to that of Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal, who were friends of mine. Julie was gracious and congratulated me and I was obnoxious and kidded her that the Tonys would have the same result.

–I sat beside Garth at that year’s Tonys at Radio City. It was a very competitive night with the awards divided among Ragtime, The Lion King and Sam Mendes’ and Rob Marshall’s Roundabout revival of Cabaret. Nathan Lane presented the award for best musical that year. He told me at the Tony Ball that when he opened the envelope, he had Ragtime on his tongue. But the card inside said The Lion King. Heidi Landesman once said to me as we left a Tony ceremony, “The Tonys make just a few people very happy and many people very sad.” On the night Ragtime got beat, I just wandered around the streets aimlessly before briefly stopping by the ball.

–Edgar Doctorow, who worked closely with us throughout the process, liked to say he was sitting in his house in New Rochelle staring at the walls, trying to find something to write about, so he started writing about the walls. And that became Ragtime. On New Year’s Eve of the new Millenium, he had sold the house to move to the city and my wife Susan and I had the privilege of tearfully packing up his library.

–Over these past 21 years, I have seen Ragtime revived on Broadway, in London, at regional theatres all across the county, and perhaps most significantly, in productions at many high schools and colleges. And that, I guess, finally is why we do it, that’s our prize. When we are lucky, we create something that lasts for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond. I guess that’s the wheels of the dream.

According to an article by Steve Cohen in The Cultural Critic, originally written for the Jewish quarterly Inside Magazine in June, 1998, Garth Drabinsky is quoted as saying other songwriters who submitted Ragtime audition tapes that Marty Bell eludes too included Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel, and the teams of John Kander & Fred Ebb and David Shire & Richard Maltby. Although invited, Marvin Hamlisch did not submit.

~ + ★ ☆ {:-)-:}   + ~

TobySimkin.com | Gaylivanting.com | TheatreInChina.com
Biography | Portfolio | Blog | Consulting | Theatre History | ObituariesContact
Facebook #PreservingHistory1ShowAtATime