Ragtime – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk has risen to the challenge and created a remarkable and exhilarating show for your entertainment until Sunday, October 13 and you must see its splendor for yourself. A new music craze, an abandoned baby boy, a time of hope and promise, and an era of civil unrest are all captured in an historical pageant of America at the turn of the twentieth century in the Tony-Award winning “Ragtime.” E. L. Doctorow’s novel, with a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens focuses on three divergent families, one upper class white, one Harlem colored, and one Jewish immigrant hopeful, whose paths cross and intersect in New Rochelle, New York in the early 1900’s.

This passionate parade of Americana “Ragtime” echoes an era that reverberated with the zeal of social reformer Emma Goldman, the courageous stance of Booker T. Washington as he tried to advance his people, the progressive Henry Ford who made automobiles an economic necessity, the magical illusionism of Harry Houdini, and the sensational notoriety of chorus star Evelyn Nesbitt.

“Ragtime” is a tintype or daguerreotype come to life, a montage of people and places and events frozen in the camera’s eye, as America grows, not always wisely or well, into a new nation. When Mother (Julia Lambert Pratt) discovers an abandoned black baby and chooses to protect him and his unwed mother Sarah (Soara Joye Ross), she sets in motion a chain of incidents that are both tragic and heartfelt. Sarah’s lover Coalhouse (Ezekiel Andrew), a musician by trade of the new musical craze ragtime, seeks her out, much to the dismay of Father (Dennis Holland), who had been exploring with Admiral Peary but is now home and displeased with the decisions made by his wife who showcases her independent spirit for the first time while he is away.

Mother’s life has also collided with that of the Jewish immigrant Tateh (Frank Mastrone), a silhouette artist, who is preoccupied keeping his motherless daughter (Ryan Ryan or Hannah Pressman) alive. In the future he will be influenced by Emma Goldman’s (Mia Scarpa) reforms for workers and realize his own American dreamCome and make the acquaintance of the sensational burlesque queen Evelyn Nesbitt (Jessica Molly Schwartz), Harry Houdini (Christian Carodozo), Henry Ford (Jeff Gurner), Booker T. Washington (Brian Demar Jones), J. P. Morgan (Bill Nabel), Sarah’s friend (Kanova Latrice Johnson),Older brother (Jacob Sundlie) and Younger brother Ari Frimmer. Many actors play multiple roles and change frequently into the lovely costumes designed by Diane Vanderkroff on the set designed by Jessie Lizotte.

Songs sparkle and stimulate the heart strings throughout like “Journey On,” “Wheels of a Dream,” “Sarah Brown Eyes,” “Till We Reach That Day” and “Make Them Hear You.”

Music and choreography spell out “Ragtime’s” soul in brilliant hues, thanks to the direction by Kevin Connors and the musical accompaniment by pianists David Wolfson and Mark Ceppetelli. The richness and rightness of the voices shine with passion and power.

For tickets ($35-65) call Muisc Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (behind Nine West Shoes) at (203)454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let ”Ragtime’s” fever infect you as you jump on an American bandwagon for an historical and spirited ride you will long remember.