With Ragtime winning four Tony Awards and raking in receipts at the Ford Center on Broadway, attention has already turned to the show's touring plans. The national tour opened at the National Theatre in Washington DC, Apr. 26, after beginning previews there Apr. 14. The run ends there Aug. 7 and moves to Denver's Buell Center Aug. 19-Sept. 26; and then to Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre Oct. 7-Nov. 21.
Starring in the touring company are Alton Fitzgerald White, who played Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the Toronto company. Other Broadway credits include Miss Saigon and Tommy.
Tateh is played by Tony-winner Michael Rupert (Sweet Charity). Rupert, also Tony nominated for Falsettos and The Happy Time, recently turned to directing Off-Broadway (I>The Lunch Anxieties). Cris Groenendaal, an original Phantom of the Opera cast-member, plays Father.
Also in the cast are Rebecca Eichenberger (A Grand Night For Singing) as Mother, Darlesia Cearcy (The Goodbye Girl) as Sarah, Bernie Yvon as Houdini, Allan Louis as Booker T. Washington, Melissa Dye as Evelyn Nesbitt, Aloysius Gigl as Younger Brother and Teresa Tova as Emma Goldman.
Meanwhile, the Ragtime company from Los Angeles (not officially considered a tour) is now in Vancouver, Canada, through Aug. 30. For tickets call TicketMaster (604) 280-2222. According to a Livent spokesperson, The Vancouver company then goes on hiatus until mid-fall and arrives at Chicago's newly-reconstructed Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre, Oct. 27-(at least) Feb. 14, 1999. Casting is still being decided for the Chicago engagement. For group sales ticket information call (312) 782-2004.
Formerly a vaudeville house and Balaban and Katz movie palace, the grand old Oriental had fallen into disrepair since the late 1970s. The theatre has much renovation still to undergo, financed in part by a $17 million grant from the City of Chicago.
Its most interesting aspect is the annexation of an adjoining landmark building, whose carefully excavated innards will supply an additional depth of 30 feet to the Ford's capacious 118-foot wide stage.
Ragtime, an epic musical about the dreams and realities of early 20th century America, opened on Broadway Jan. 18. Many theatregoers own the Grammy-nominated, 1996 concept recording of "Songs from Ragtime, The Musical" on RCA Victor. RCA recorded the Broadway cast in a 2-disc set released Apr. 28 (delayed from the previously announced Apr. 7). Jay David Saks produced, with James Nichols serving as recording engineer at the Hit Factory on West 54th St. The recording session is the first in a long-term deal between RCA Victor and Livent.
With music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (Tony winners for best score) and a book by Terrence McNally (Tony for best book), Broadway's Ragtime plays at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, a brand new $22.5 million theatre built on the formerly blighted West 42nd Street expressly for this production. It stands on the site of two classic Broadway houses, the Lyric and the Apollo, which were demolished, but architectural details of which were incorporated into the new theatre.
Based on the novel of the same name by E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime underwent a two-year gestation under the auspices of Toronto mogul Drabinsky. The show opened in Toronto in Dec. 1996 and then in Los Angeles in June 1997, winning top theatre awards in both cities.
Ragtime is directed by Tony winner Frank Galati (The Grapes of Wrath) of Chicago. Choreography is by Graciela Daniele, who staged Ahrens & Flaherty's Broadway musical Once on This Island. Ahrens & Flaherty also wrote My Favorite Year and Lucky Stiff for the stage, and the score for the animated film Anastasia, which opened in November 1997.
Librettist McNally wrote Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Lisbon Traviata and many other plays, including the new and controversial Corpus Christi. Like the novel, his book for Ragtime mixes fictional characters and historical ones in telling the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr., a black man who buys a Model T Ford, setting off a chain of events that involve the highest and lowest levels of New York City society -- along with magician Harry Houdini, industrialist Henry Ford, celebrity Evelyn Nesbit, black leader Booker T. Washington, architect Sanford White, revolutionary Emma Goldman, Admiral Peary, a Latvian immigrant who becomes a movie director, and a not-so-quiet family in suburban New Rochelle, N.Y. All are characters in the sweeping musical.
The Broadway production features nearly the entire original Toronto cast, including Audra McDonald as Sarah, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Marin Mazzie as Mother. Mitchell starred in Ragtime's U.S. premiere in Los Angeles, as well as in McNally's Kiss, which was produced by Livent. Ragtime brought McDonald her third Tony (Master Class and Carousel were the other two.) Mazzie appeared in Stephen Sondheim's Passion.
The Broadway production also features stars Mark Jacoby (Livent's Show Boat) as Father, Steven Sutcliffe as Mother's Younger Brother, Peter Friedman as Tateh, Judy Kaye as Emma Goldman, Jim Corti as Harry Houdini, Lynette Perry (Grand Hotel) as Evelyn Nesbit, Tommy Hollis as Booker T. Washington, Larry Daggett as Henry Ford.
The 32-song score includes "Wheels of a Dream," "Gliding," "Back To Before," "Sarah Brown Eyes," "Buffalo Nickel Photoplay Inc.," "Crime of the Century," "Make Them Hear You" and the title number.
The production also carries Broadway ticket prices to new highs. Regular orchestra seats cost $76, one dollar higher than the current top of $75 at some shows on Saturday nights. However, new VIP seating, which gives the ticket holder special services and privileges, go for $125. Tickets in other parts of the theatre and other nights range as low as $31. Tickets for the Broadway production are on sale at (212) 307-4100.
The $125 "VIP Suite Service" gets the buyer a center orchestra seat, a souvenir program, private washroom facilities, complementary beverages, coat and parcel check, a light snack, and access to a special VIP s lounge in the theatre's basement.
Mary Bryant, spokesperson for Canada-based producer, Livent Inc., said 50 of the VIP tickets are available at each performance. Those looking for a bargain can get the VIP Suite Service for $115 per person at Wednesday matinees. This VIP Suite service was earlier instituted by Livent at Toronto's Pantages Theatre and other Canadian venues.