The Pace Theatrical Group's new national tour of Ragtime, a trimmer and more human-sized production than the spectacle seen on Broadway, begins previews July 31 at Jones Hall in Houston.
Insiders say audiences can expected a more actor-driven show, with smaller sets and fewer performers. Some of the mechanics of Broadway will be missing: J.P. Morgan, for example, will run over the masses of immigrants with a railroad cart rather than crush them by descending on an industrial gangplank.
The staging, overseen by the original creative team, including director Frank Galati and choreographer Graciela Daniele, stars Cathy Wydner as Mother, Lawrence Hamilton as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Lovena Fox as Sarah, Jim Corti as Tateh, Stephen Zinnato as Father and Aloysius Gigl as Younger Brother.
The tour, already with dates into 2000, will play previews in Houston July 31 and Aug. 1 and officially open Aug. 3, continuing to Aug. 15.
Rehearsals got under way in New York City the week of June 28. Hamilton starred in the national tour that began in spring 1998 in Washington DC and closed in Boston in spring 1999. Hamilton joined the tour in Seattle, replacing Alton White, who went to Broadway. For the new national tour, in a change from the past, actors in the roles of Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford and others will be blended into the ensemble.
The panoramic musical by Terrence McNally (book), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music) is drawn from the E.L. Doctorow novel about three American families -- black, white and immigrant -- and their intertwining fates circa 1902-1914.
The cast also include Ryan O'Connell (Little Boy), Nicholas Boak (Little Boy), Austin Colyer (Grandfather), Allan Louis (Booker T. Washington), Jenell Brook Slack (Little Girl), Lindsay Nyman (Little Girl), Eric Olson (Harry Houdini), Jeff Cyronek (J.P. Morgan), Jay Bodin (Henry Ford), Cyndi Neal (Emma Goldman), Michele Ragusa (Evelyn Nesbit), Al Bundonis (Willie Conklin), Inga Ballard (Sarah's Friend), Todd Jones, Eric Gunhus, Sandy Winsby, Todd M. Kryger, Victoria Strong, Scott Calcagno, Elena Ferrante, Philip Michael Baskerville, Ivy Fox, Paul Avedisian, Paul David Bryant, Dick Decareau, Jennie Ford, Ketsia Poitevien, Rosena M. Hill, Rhonda Roberts, Alecia Robinson, Jennifer Stetor, John Whitney, Erich McMillan-McCall, Regina Ahlgren, Sheldon Craig, Lesla Mather, plus a locally cast actor to play Coalhouse Walker III.
Those close to Ragtime, a multiple 1998 Tony Award-winner for its book and rag-influenced score, suggest the show is richly human enough that it will survive -- some say, thrive -- on a more intimate scale.
Critics have alternately praised the Broadway staging for its sweep and humanity, and called it physically cold, imposing and impersonal. Some theatregoers used to spectacle and wanting a bang for their buck, have grumbled about a possible physical scale-back on internet message boards.
While on its 1998-99 tour, an Act Two magic act featuring character Harry Houdini, was trimmed to make it less costly and less time consuming to ship and install. Unlike Broadway, Act Two on tour began with "Coalhouse’s Soliloquy." The magic act-nightmare has been cut for the new tour.
For information about Ragtime in Houston, call (713) 227-3974.