Ragtime – Marlene S. Gaylinn

“Ragtime,” a 1998 Tony Award-Winning Musical opened Music Theater of Connecticut’s (MTC) 33rd season to a standing ovation. The show is based on a best-selling novel by E.L. Doctorow, and describes the interactions of three different cultures during 1910. We have a wealthy family from New Rochelle, African Americans from Harlem, and Jewish Immigrants who are just off the boat.

Cleverly woven against the background of prejudicial attitudes and the class struggles of this period are millionaires J.P. Morgan (Bill Nabel) and Henry Ford (Jeff Gurner) contrasted by the outspoken revolutionist Emma Goldman (Mi Scarpa) and educator, Booker T. Washington (Brian Demar Jones). For whatever reason, the magician, Harry Houdini (Christian Cardozo) adds to the parade of famous personalities.

“Ragtime” received the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for “Best Musical” and “Best Score.” Featured in the score by Stephen Flaherty with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, is the ragtime music of Harlem and Tin Pan Alley. Instead of a full orchestra, at MTC, we have two jazz pianists, Musical Director, David Wolfson, and Mark Ceppetelli. The pair is certainly loud enough for this small theatre. While the staging by Chris McNiff is lively, dancing is unfortunately missing from MTC’s production.

The professional actors are under the direction of MTC’s Artistic Director, Kevin Connors, who really knows how to make his stars shine. Ezekiel Andrew, who has a golden voice plays, the very determined, black rebel, “Coalhouse Walker, Jr.” His love is Soara-Joye Ross as “Sarah.” Their fine voices blend perfectly in “Wheels of a Dream.” In “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy” which opens Act Two, Andrew’s passionate words could have been further enhanced if the piano accompaniments were a bit softer.

Juliet Lambert Pratt plays the compassionate, independent “Mother,” Dennis Holland is the more conservative “Father,” and Ari Frimmer is their inquisitive “Little Boy.” Ari, who has a big part, did not stumble over a single word. Frank Mastone plays a typical, Jewish immigrant and his daughter is sweet Hannah Pressman. Jessica Molly Schwartz is the coy cutie who plays the delightfully seductive, Evelyn Nesbit.

Diane Vanderkroef merits special praise for her gorgeous, period costumes.

“Ragtime” is another MTC hit that everyone is sure to enjoy.

Plays to October 13 Tickets: 203-454-3883