The national tour of Ragtime, in jeopardy since last fall when producer Livent Inc. filed bankruptcy papers, will indeed “journey on” -- as speculated -- beyond its current Boston booking.
The national tour, a hit at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, will conclude Mar. 28. After a hiatus, a new national tour using the existing set will be re-launched at Jones Hall in Houston in August 1999.
It was not immediately clear if principals in the current tour -- Michael Rupert, Darlesia Cearcy, Rebecca Eichenberger, Lawrence Hamilton -- and their ensemble colleagues will be invited back. Their contracts end with the Boston closing.
The forthcoming tour will be “reconceived and remounted” by the original creative team, including director Frank Galati, and a tour spokesperson confirmed that the tour’s financial viability is an element in the reconception.
It has been speculated for months by members of the national touring company that Pace may consider scaling back physical elements of the big-set show or trimming the 55-person cast. Such a move would make the expensive-to-run show more easily able to make a profit. Pace Theatrical Group and Livent announced Feb. 4 that the national tour, originally produced by Livent and now licensed to Pace, would travel to 50 cities between summer 1999 and 2001.
On Feb 4, the court handling Livent’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case approved the agreement allowing the new Ragtime tour to proceed.
Rave reviews have boosted Boston box office significantly since the Jan. 21 opening, according to a Boston spokesperson. Variety reported that the Boston box office gross at the 1,629-seat Colonial was $636,999 for seven performances in the week of Feb. 1-7. In the same week, the Chicago Ragtime company grossed $673,305 and the Broadway company grossed $680,063.
In Boston, principal or featured roles in the musical about social collisions in America, circa 1904-15, are played by Lawrence Hamilton (Coalhouse), Michael Rupert (Tateh), Rebecca Eichenberger (Mother), Darlesia Cearcy (Sarah) and Cris Groenendaal (Father).
The Colonial is an appropriate setting for turn-of-century musical: The 1,680-seat theatre was built in 1900.
Most of the cast has been together since the April 1998 opening of the tour in Washington, D.C. All but Hamilton were on tour when producer Livent Inc. announced it would prematurely shut down the tour in November 1998 due to financial problems plaguing the organization.
Pace Theatrical Group quickly stepped in, put up money and guaranteed its next two dates, at Pace-run houses, in Seattle (Dec. 2, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999) and Boston.
Previously announced spring-summer booking possibilities, like San Francisco in spring 1999, will not happen.
In 1998, while on tour, the Act Two opening, a magic-act featuring character Harry Houdini, was scaled back to make it less costly and less time-consuming to ship and install. Act Two now begins with “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy.”
Those close to Ragtime, a multiple 1998 Tony Award-winner for its book by Terrence McNally and rag-influenced score by lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty, suggest the show is richly human enough that it will survive -- some say, thrive -- with a more human, intimate scale.
Critics have alternately praised the show for its sweep, and called it physically cold and impersonal. Some theatregoers used to spectacle and wanting a bang for their buck, have grumbled about a possible scale-back on internet message boards.
During the Seattle run of Ragtime, Alton Fitzgerald White left the company as Coalhouse Walker Jr. to take over the role on Broadway, beginning Dec. 29, 1998 (replacing original Brian Stokes Mitchell). Lawrence Hamilton took over in Seattle.
For information about the Boston run of Ragtime at the Colonial Theatre, call (617) 931-ARTS.