Ragtime (continuing in repertory to Oct. 14) is already a box-office hit for the festival devoted to thought-inspiring works in the tradition of George Bernard Shaw. It's the highest-selling show this season, followed by Present Laughter. May performances are averaging over 80 percent sold with half of the performances sold out.
Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell directs the large-cast show based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow. Ragtime, the story of three disparate communities — a white, upper-middle class family in New Rochelle, an African-American musician and his girlfriend in Harlem, an Eastern European immigrant and his daughter in the Lower East Side — intermingling (uneasily) at the beginning of the 20th century, has a book by Terrence McNally and score by Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). The writers won 1998 Tony Awards for their work; the show had its pre-Broadway tryout in 1996 in Toronto.
The show's weave includes the historical figures of escape artist Harry Houdini, civil rights leader Booker T. Washington, political activist Emma Goldman, banker J.P. Morgan, inventor Henry Ford and stage star Evelyn Nesbit.
The staging has musical direction by Paul Sportelli and choreography by Valerie Moore. The cast features Thom Allison as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Patty Jamieson as Mother and Jay Turvey as Tateh, with Benedict Campbell, Kate Hennig, Alana Hibbert, Julie Martell, Evan Alexander Smith and Kelly Wong, with Guy Bannerman, Neil Barclay, Jaden Carmichael, Jeremy Carver-James, Aadin Church, Saccha Dennis, Ijeoma Emesowum, Elodie Gillett, Morgan Hilliker, Eden Kennedy, Billy Lake, Nichola Lawrence, Anthony Malarky, Stewart Adam McKensy, Brandyn McKinson, Marla McLean, Peter Millard, Louie Rossetti, Kiera Sangster, Jivaro Smith, Jacqueline Thair, Aidan Tye and Jenny L. Wright.
The Shaw production team includes set and costume designer Sue LePage, lighting designer Alan Brodie, projection designer Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson and sound designer John Lott, plus stage manager Diane Konkin and assistant stage managers Amy Jewell and Leigh McClymont. The Shaw Festival's 2012 season runs until Oct. 28 and features 11 productions presented on the Festival's four stages. The titles include His Girl Friday; Come Back, Little Sheba; The Millionairess; Hedda Gabler; Trouble in Tahiti; and Helen's Necklace. For more information, visit shawfest.com.