The Broadway-bound musical Ragtime had its American premiere June 15 at the Shubert Theatre in Century City, CA.
The Los Angeles mounting stars original Toronto cast-member Brian Stokes Mitchell (Coalhouse), alongside John Rubinstein as Tateh; LaChanze as Sarah, Marcia Mitzman-Gavin as the mother, Judy Kaye as Emma Goldman, Jason Graae as Houdini, Susan Wood as Evelyn Nesbitt; and John Dossett as the father.
"It was a fabulous night," said spokesperson Tim Choi. Attendees included Ragtime's novelist E.L. Doctorow, as well as Jason Alexander, Theodore Bikel, Matthew Broderick, Christine Ebersole, Mitzi Gaynor, Jerry Merman, Tom Hulce, Nathan Lane, Vicki Lewis, Bob Mackie, Margaret O'Brien, Doris Roberts, Rex Smith, Alan Thicke, Robert Townsend, Ed Begley Jr., Debbie Boone, Patrick Cassidy, Hal David, Morgan Freeman, John Glover, Arthur Hiller, Lainie Kazan, Quincy Jones, Michele Lee, Roddy MacDowall, Joan Plowright, Ian McKellen, Joe Mantello, Jon Robin Baitz, Chita Rivera, Eva Marie Saint, Jean Stapleton, Richard Thomas, and Robert Wise. Tickets are now on sale for the Shubert Theatre production: call Tele charge at 800-447-7400. You can also order tickets on Playbill On-Line. For group sales: (800) 832-8440.
Mitchell will leave the L.A. production be with the original Toronto cast when it begins previews at the new Ford Performing Arts Center on Broadway in December 1997. Those names include Mark Jacoby (Show Boat) as Father, Marin Mazzie (Passion) as Mother, Audra McDonald (Carousel and Master Class) as Sarah, Steven Sutcliffe as Mother's Younger Brother, and Peter Friedman as Tateh. Directed by Tony-Award winning Frank Galati and produced by theatre mogul Garth Drabinsky, the musical will also feature Jim Corti as Harry Houdini, Lynette Perry as Evelyn Nesbitt, Richard Allen as Booker T. Washington, Larry Daggett as Henry Ford, Camille Saviola as Emma Goldman and Vanessa Townsell-Crisp as Sarah's Friend, Paul Soles as Grandfather, Mike O'Carroll as J.P. Morgan, David Mucci as Willie Conklin and Lea Michele as the Little Girl.
Already the most highly praised and touted musical expected for the 1997-98 Broadway season, Ragtime is still making minor adjustments to its Toronto premiere production, some of which will make their way from the Los Angeles mounting and to Broadway. Norman Zagier, spokesman for Livent Inc., said "Ragtime's creative team met in January. It's the first time they've reconvened since the Toronto opening in [December]. They made minor changes and started incorporating them in February And March." Changes include, "some transpositions, new lines, new underscoring." The most visible revision is to the finale, which was changed from a reprise of title song, "Ragtime," to a reprise of "Wheels of a Dream." The reason? "To provide a different kind of emotional closing to the show," said Zagier. "`Wheels' brings the Coalhouse-Sarah story full circle in a way that "Ragtime" might not have."
The Toronto production runs to Aug. 31, then takes a hiatus and starts previews on Broadway Dec. 26. The Lynn Ahrens/ Stephen Flaherty/ Terrence McNally musical, based on E.L. Doctorow's panoramic novel, will play at the new $22.5 million Ford Performing Arts Center on 42nd Street in New York. Though a concept album recorded July 1996 has made the Ragtime score familiar to theatregoers, the NY cast will go into the studio in January 1998 to create an official Broadway cast CD.
Those interested in the show and its journey to New York might want to check out a new newsletter, "The Ragtime News," published by Kimberly Bieksza. Published four times a year beginning in July, "The Ragtime News," offers stories on the making of the show, as well as readers' reviews and comments on various productions of Ragtime. Proceeds from the $8 subscription price go to offset the cost of "supplies and postage;" whatever is left over will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For information write to 703 Powell Lane, Lewiston, NY 14092-1157 or e-mail Ragtime216@aol.com
Tickets for the Broadway production are currently on sale by calling (212) 307-4100.