Toronto Ragtime Extends Yet Again

News   Toronto Ragtime Extends Yet Again
 
Ragtime, the hit musical at Toronto's Ford Center for the Performing Arts, has announced that it will extend yet again, this time to June 29.
left: Lea Michele and Peter Friedman; center: The Company; right: Lynette Perry
left: Lea Michele and Peter Friedman; center: The Company; right: Lynette Perry Photo by Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

Ragtime, the hit musical at Toronto's Ford Center for the Performing Arts, has announced that it will extend yet again, this time to June 29.

Tickets can be purchased by calling (416) 872-2222.

The new musical by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally, had its world premiere in Toronto Dec. 8, is scheduled to open in Los Angeles in June, and on Broadway in January 1998.

The Toronto run was originally scheduled to end March 9, but was previously extended through April 27.

Here are excerpts from the Toronto reviews: From John Coulbourn, Toronto Sun:
For sheer, wonderful audacity, there are few works in contemporary musical theatre to rival Ragtime: The Musical, the latest stage extravaganza from Garth Drabinsky's Livent theatrical juggernaut.
. . .this is an impressive work, faithfully, even masterfully, adapted to the stage by Terrence McNally, and carried aloft on the strong wings of Lynn Ahrens's lyrics and Stephen Flaherty's score.
With director Frank Galati and a technical dream team, Ragtime's builders have created an incisive piece of theatre that cuts like a knife through the strata of American society at the turn of the century.
Lushly and lavishly staged, thanks to a design team that includes Santo Loquasto, Eugene Lee, John Boesche, Franz Harary and Graciela Daniele, Ragtime emerges nonetheless as a performance-driven piece, a tribute not only to its creators but also to an impressive cast.
Despite his high octane design team, Galati uses his performers to provide many of the work's most memorable moments. From Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald, powerfully and unforgettably matched as Coalhouse Walker Jr. And Sarah, through Mark Jacoby and Marin Mazzie as Father and Mother, Steven Sutcliffe as Mother's Younger Brother, and Peter Friedman as Tateh, Galati has drawn performances that are fully realized. Happily, excellence extends right through the ranks of the supporting players . . .If you love quality performance, Ragtime offers thrilling work.
But it is also a sprawling saga, occasionally threatening to spill over the constraints of musical theatre like showgirl Nesbit from her corsets.
Still, with its preoccupation with 'the crime of the century,' its racism, its sexism, its terrorism and its humanity, Ragtime leaves us amazed that we've travelled so very far in this century only to end up in almost precisely the same place as we started.
Now that's audacious.
Sun Rating: 5 out of 5

 

From Vit Wagner, Toronto Star:
Ragtime, the $11 million, Garth Drabinsky-financed musical that made its world premiere last night at the Ford Centre, is a big, epic drama about a society caught in a relentless swirl of historical change...
The most impressive achievement in this consistently marvellous work is the way that its creators . . . have used the source material, E. L. Doctorow's enduring 1975 novel, as a bridge between the story's setting, turn-of the century America, and the present day. Don't be surprised if the musical lives on into the next century as well.
Racial tension, feminism, immigration, the disparity between rich and poor - the meat of the novel - haven't been relegated to window dressing. Instead, they are expressed with a kind of emotional force that is absent from Doctorow's keenly observational but distancing style.
The vehicle for these high emotions is a varied score steeped in the traditions of American music from ragtime to gospel. It is used to convey everything from a parent's love to the rude antics of baseball fans.
The creators, aware of Doctorow's stated misgiving about the 1981 movie version, have taken a more balanced approach to the story's three interwoven plotlines about a middle-class family in the New York suburb of New Rochelle, the black woman and child they take into their home, and an immigrant Jewish father and daughter from Eastern Europe. The efforts of the black woman's musician fiance, Colehouse [sic] Walker Jr. (played by Brian Stokes Mitchell), to avenge the racist desecration of his Model T remains the most combustible element. When Walker, holed up with his gang in a J. P. Morgan Library wired with explosives, meets the pacifist black leader Booker T. Washington (Richard Allen) their confrontation unmistakably echoes divisions in the black community today. But Colehouse [sic] Walker is not allowed to steal the show, even if Mitchell almost does with his charismatic portrayal of trampled idealism and wounded pride. ``The Wheels Of A Dream,'' his duet with the mellifluous Audra McDonald (as girlfriend Sarah), is the production's stand-out emotional moment.

 

From Ben Brantley in the New York Times:
. . . The ways in which these talents have collaborated to set the initial tone of the show are an astonishment and a delight. Like the novel, the musical begins with slyly seductive understatement: with a lone piano articulating a basic rag melody and a lone little boy (Paul Franklin Dano) onstage.
What immediately follows has the effect of a richly hued tapestry being spun into instant existence. The melody takes on different orchestral shadings and tempos that suggest the clashing ethnic forces at work: middle-class whites, underclass blacks, and Eastern European immigrants. A double stereopticon image miraculously coalesces and dissolves into a live, breathtakingly costumed ensemble; the panoramic backdrop bleeds into different colors like a sensitive mood ring. But it's the performers who hold our attention, artfully arranged by Ms. Daniele into social sects that mingle and draw apart in a dance of conflicting styles, as the music acquires dissonance, energy, and anger.
The feeling is Whitmanesque in ways that invite comparison to the Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborations with Agnes de Mille. And without ever tearing the larger thematic fabric, the show's principal characters (who range from archetypal representatives of each class to historical figures like Harry Houdini and Evelyn Nesbit) break from the ensemble to introduce themselves, in the third person and more or less in Doctorow's words.
. . . It's a stunning, impeccably coordinated introduction that encompasses the show's entire sweep. Are we witnessing the new "Oklahoma!"?
Unfortunately, no. "Ragtime" has set itself the intimidating task of balancing a panoramic social canvas with a specific sense of the characters within it. And, as in Drabinksy's production of "Showboat," [sic] the canvas seems to come first.
. . . This is all achieved seamlessly and an amazing variety of means. And the music reaches to match the visual grandeur. Flaherty and Ms. Ahrens do their best work to date here. But the show is inordinately heavy on anthems of the oppressed, sung with open throats and ardent expressions. And by its end, you may feel you've been sitting through a multimillion dollar reunion of a folk protest group like the Weavers.
The cast, overall, is excellent, especially Brian Stokes Mitchell as the musician turned revolutionary, Coalhouse Walker; Audra McDonald, as the woman Coalhouse loves; and Camille Saviola as the rabble-rousing anarchist Emma Goldman.

 

From Laurie Winer, Los Angeles Times:
TORONTO--In a score that borrows liberally from our country's glorious musical heritage, from Scott Joplin to Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim, the new musical "Ragtime" captures what its title song promises: "an era exploding, a century spinning, in riches and rags, in rhythm and rhyme."
. . . The news from Toronto is resounding. Despite a shrillness in its depiction of social protest, "Ragtime" is what it strives so spectacularly to be: a defining musical for the end of the American Century.
. . . Though it handles its large canvas with beautiful assurance, "Ragtime" is not afraid to be small. Some of its most moving moments are quiet; one such number is a shimmering duet ("Sarah Brown Eyes") between a musician and his lost love that is a jewel. This is a long show that understands there is strength in range.
As the 1981 movie version failed to do, "Ragtime" gives balance to all three stories that Doctorow co-mingled: those of a wealthy white family in a New York suburb, a black freedom fighter named Coalhouse Walker (the admirable Brian Stokes Mitchell) and a poor Jewish immigrant (Peter Friedman, also excellent) who remakes himself in Hollywood. Additionally, it deepens our understanding of two female characters, Mother (Marin Mazzie) and Sarah (Audra McDonald), who abandons her baby in bitter despair. . . . McDonald imbues her big song, "Your Daddy's Son," with a lovely voice and an ability to be despairing without self-pity. Mazzie displays the grace of her infinitely graceful character. Her second-act number, "Back to Before," contains perhaps the show's most well-crafted lyric; it limns the dissolution of a marriage as well as that of the white upper middle-class complacency into which the marriage was born. Act 1 sails by in a dream of good storytelling. In one heart-stopping scene, Coalhouse introduces the white family to ragtime and at the same time courts a formerly intractable Sarah. As he plays slowly at the piano, the household is transfixed.
It's a great moment, one in which people are absorbed in their emotions and yet are changing before our eyes. That is the magic of ragtime and of "Ragtime," which soon no doubt will hold all lovers of musical drama in the grip of its inevitable notes.

 

A recording featuring most of the original cast and nearly the entire score was chosen by many members of Playbill On-Line as their favorite theatre album of 1996.

One significant change has been made during previews. The song "It's the Showbiz" for Evelyn Nesbitt and Harry Houdini has been cut and replaced with a new number, "I Have a Feeling."

The Toronto cast includes Mark Jacoby (Show Boat) as Father, Marin Mazzie (Passion) as Mother, Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss of the Spider Woman) as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Audra McDonald (Carousel and Master Class) as Sarah, Steven Sutcliffe as Mother's Younger Brother, and Peter Friedman as Tateh.

The production is directed by Tony-Award winning Frank Galati and produced by theatre mogul Garth Drabinsky, and also features 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.

Not to mention Paul Soles as Grandfather, Mike O'Carroll as J.P. Morgan, David Mucci as Willie Conklin, Paul Franklin Dano as Edgar and Lea Michele as the Little Girl.

Tickets for the Toronto production are now on sale at (416) 872-2222.

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