Audience response was already expected to be high on Dec. 27, the last show of the holiday weekend. The sentimental departures will likely add to the emotions of the performance.
The lauded pair, whose contracts are ending, have been with the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty-Terrence McNally musical for three years and many milestones: Early readings, a CD of songs from the show, the 1996 Toronto premiere and 1997 run, the January 1998 Broadway premiere, a cast recording and their Tony Award nominations in May 1998. McDonald went home a Best Featured Actress Tony winner, for the role of Sarah, doomed love interest of rag pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. (played by Mitchell).
The pair’s exit makes way for Alton Fitzgerald White and LaChanze to interpret the parts, drawn from E.L. Doctorow’s acclaimed novel about American societal collisions circa 1904-1914. They begin Dec. 29. Also exiting Dec. 27 is original Younger Brother, Canadian actor Steven Sutcliffe, the lean, blond actor previously seen at Ontario’s Shaw Festival and elsewhere in Canada. Scott Carollo (of the Los Angeles Ragtime company) takes over Dec. 29.
LaChanze’s bright, big voice was heard in Broadway’s Once On This Island, the Roundabout Theatre's revival of Company, and in the L.A., Vancouver and Chicago companies of Ragtime. White played Coalhouse in the national tour of Ragtime, which closes up shop Jan. 3 in Seattle. Its next stop is Boston.
At a curtain speech one week before his own departure, Mitchell, a Ragtime veteran since the two early readings, one workshop and the 1996 premiere, praised fellow outgoing original cast members Marin Mazzie, Lea Michele, Peter Friedman and others on their last day, Dec. 20.
Remaining with the musical pageant about racism, social change and an awakening century will be Judy Kaye as Emma Goldman, Janine LaManna as Evelyn Nesbit, Mark Jacoby as Father and Tommy Hollis (Booker T. Washington).
The final Mazzie-Friedman-Michele performance -- which was also the final day of original ensemble members Anne Kanengeiser, Bruce Winant, Joe Langworth and Broadway "Grandfather" Conrad McLaren -- left room Dec. 22 for incoming Donna Bullock (as Mother), John Rubinstein (playing the immigrant, Tateh) and Elizabeth Lundberg and Dara Paige Bloomfield (who will alternate in the role of the Little Girl). Tom Toner also stepped in Dec. 22 as Grandfather.
Bullock has played in the Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago Ragtime companies; Rubinstein in Vancouver and L.A.
The Dec. 20 audience may have been aware of the milestone: Mazzie, who doesn't always get audience response after "What Kind of Woman" (because it is musically linked to "Success"), earned applause for it at her final show that Sunday.
Ragtime opened on Broadway Jan. 18, 1998. For tickets call (212) 307-4550.