Fireworks! Ragtime Will Return to Broadway Oct. 23

By Kenneth Jones
01 Jul 2009

Ragtime, the Tony Award-winning musical that fans say got a too-short Broadway run after its 1998 launch — in the same season as The Lion King — is coming back to the Great White Way.



The news has been buzzed about for weeks, and on July 1 producers made it official: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' recent all-new and critically acclaimed production of Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Ragtime, based on the E.L. Doctorow novel, featuring direction and choreography by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, will begin Broadway previews Oct. 23 at the Neil Simon Theatre. Opening is Nov. 15.

Casting and ticketing information will be announced soon. Members of the Kennedy Center company will likely be offered their roles again.

Ragtime will be produced on Broadway by Kevin McCollum, Roy Furman, Roger Berlind, Max Cooper, Tom Kirdahy/Devlin Elliott, Jeffrey Sine, Scott Delman, Roy Miller, LAMS Productions, Inc., Wendy Federman, Emanuel Azenberg in association with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Milgrom Dodge's production debuted at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater on April 18 and played a popular limited engagement through May 17, 2009.

The award winning production team includes scenic design by Derek McLane, original costume design by Santo Loquasto, lighting design by Donald Holder, musical direction by James Moore and original orchestrations by William David Brohn.

Here's how producers characterize the musical: "Based on E.L. Doctorow's acclaimed epic novel, Ragtime turns back the clock to the dawn of the 20th century — a time when anything was possible and ragtime music filled the air. New York City was the land of opportunity. A poor Jewish immigrant sells his 'moving picture' books on the street. A wealthy Victorian couple welcomes a runaway into their home. A Harlem jazz pianist turns an issue of justice into a revolution. Their personal journeys come alive as historic figures offer guidance and diversion — among them escape artist Harry Houdini, auto tycoon Henry Ford, educator Booker T. Washington, and infamous entertainer Evelyn Nesbit. Together, their stories celebrate the struggle between tradition and independence all in pursuit of the American dream."

After a test run in Toronto, Ragtime originally opened on Broadway on Jan. 18, 1998 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The musical won four Tony Awards including Best Book (Terrence McNally), Original Score (lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty) and Best Orchestrations (Williams David Brohn). Audra McDonald won a Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for playing Sarah.

The lavish, big-cast project was initiated and guided by producer Garth Drabinsky, whose production company Livent would collapse within several years of the Broadway bow. Frank Galati directed the original; Graciela Daniele choreographed. Both were Tony-nominated for their work.

A scaled-down London production and a national tour followed the Broadway run, and the title has since been seen in regional, stock and amateur theatre. Flaherty told the Washington Post earlier this year that the 2009 production, physically, falls somewhere between the opulent 1998 production and the "minimalist" London production.

A pre-Broadway CD, "Songs from Ragtime," was released (it includes a song that was later cut), and two-CD cast album preserves the Broadway score. Ahrens, Flaherty and McNally have since done some trims to the property for its licensing life.

The original Broadway run played Dec. 26, 1997-Jan. 16, 2000. It played 27 previews and 834 performances.

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The 2009 spring Kennedy Center Ragtime cast included Ron Bohmer as Father, Quentin Earl Darrington as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Manoel Felciano as Tateh, Christiane Noll as Mother, Jennlee Shallow as Sarah, Bobby Steggert as Younger Brother, Christopher Cox as The Little Boy and Sarah Rosenthal as The Little Girl.

The ensemble comprised Mark Aldrich as Willie Conklin, Susan Derry as Kathleen, Gavin Esham as Stanford White, Aaron Galligan-Stierle as Henry Ford, David Garry as J.P. Morgan, Jonathan Hammond as Harry Houdini, Leigh Ann Larkin as Evelyn Nesbit, Dan Manning as Grandfather, Donna Migliaccio as Emma Goldman, Tracy Lynn Olivera as Brigit, Bryonha Parham as Sarah's Friend, Josh Walden as Harry K. Thaw, Eric Jordan Young as Booker T. Washington, as well as Sumayya Ali, Melvin Bell III, Kevin Boseman, Corey Bradley, Shelby Braxton-Brooks, Elizabeth Loren Earley, Carrie A. Johnson, Gregory Maheu, Sarah Rosenthal, Elisa Van Duyne, Nellesa Walthour, Sasha Sloan and Jim Weaver.