And then…Ragtime. (part 2)

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This was one of Mtastic’s Formative Shows, the way I think Guys and Dolls, Showboat and On The Town were for me as a child. You see it, you imprint, and you think This Is What Theater Should Be. She saw it during its original run in the 90s, when I think they were trying to spin it as a domestic Les Mis and struggling. Of course, Stokes, Audra McDonald and Marin Mazzie were also there, so a balanced cast would have been crazy difficult anyway. This revival started at the Kennedy Center with a pared down score and some slight rejigging of the included plot points from the book.

Since it closed yesterday, we saw the last evening performance ever, which is an experience I love especially when one of the cast members loses it onstage. In this case it was Younger Brother, who got some of the highest acclaim for this production (and who was fantastic). We also got to see Mother’s understudy, and if there’s something more inspiring than an understudy on Broadway belting out the eleven o’clock tear jerker on a show’s last night…I don’t want to know what it is because I’d probably never stop crying.

I loved it. After I finished the book (and stopped crying) I couldn’t think what impulse would make you think “this needs to be a musical”….but once you hear the stumbling, understated beat of a rag underneath these archetypal sketches, it’s the most natural thing in the world. The set’s barebones approach, with a glass upright piano and the suggestion of a car’s structure, enhanced the focus on the individuals, that these could have been any three families in this class structure, and gave an unexpected moment of beauty. When Coalhouse is playing piano for Sarah who’s up in the attic, the footlights shone through the glass “keyboard” and painted his fingers in silhouette on the back wall of the theater.

Tateh, Mother and Edgar (the son, and only non-celebrity with a name) were all very good. Edgar’s comedic timing was good, and Mother’s blithe dismissal of Father’s concerns when she greets him after his trip with a baby in her arms was a very bright moment.

Everyone was sniffly, if not downright weepy, by the end. And this was after giving the cast a full minute of  applause by way of curtain-up greeting. 

And then….the No Pants Subway Ride

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