Ragtime, a Musical Melting Pot, Opens on Broadway

By Kenneth Jones
15 Nov 2009

The cast of Ragtime
The cast of Ragtime
Photo by Joan Marcus

Ragtime, the Tony Award-winning 1998 musical that brings to life both the historic sweep and intimate human stories of the novel that inspired it, opens on Broadway Nov. 15.

Christiane Noll, Robert Petkoff and Quentin Earl Darrington star as the leaders of three tribes that collide in 1906 New York City.

This 40-actor Ragtime revival, directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, first dawned at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, earlier this year. Commercial producers lifted it to the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway (with slight cast changes), where previews began Oct. 23.

Ragtime, based on the E.L. Doctorow novel, has a Tony Award-winning book by Terrence McNally and Tony-winning score by Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). William David Brohn's original Tony-winning orchestrations will be heard. The show was overshadowed 11 years ago in a season that also saw the opening of The Lion King (which is still running).

The scenically lean, actor-driven production at the Kennedy Center was critically acclaimed. The ever-transforming skeletal, multi-tiered set helps accentuate the characters and the storytelling over design spectacle. (The 1998 production was lavish and often literal.) Milgrom Dodge stripped away major scenic elements to focus on script and score and actor, and got good reviews for her work.

The new Broadway cast is a mix of holdovers (including Noll as the privileged white matron known as Mother, and Darrington as African-American musician Coalhouse Walker Jr.) and newcomers (including Petkoff, as Jewish patriarch Tateh).

The 28-piece orchestra is led by musical director James Moore. There are some trims and revisions to the original score, which was preserved on a two-disc cast album in 1998. The show now runs under three hours.


The Broadway company includes The Woman in White's Ron Bohmer (Father), Color Purple touring veteran Quentin Earl Darrington (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.), Jekyll & Hyde's Christiane Noll (Mother), Fiddler on the Roof's Robert Petkoff (Tateh), 110 in the Shade's Bobby Steggert (Mother's Younger Brother), Stephanie Umoh (Sarah) with Christopher Cox (The Little Boy), Sarah Rosenthal (The Little Girl), Mark Aldrich (Willie Conklin), Aaron Galligan-Stierle (Henry Ford), Jonathan Hammond (Harry Houdini), Dan Manning (Grandfather), Michael X. Martin (J.P. Morgan), Michael McGowan (Stanford White), respected DC star Donna Migliaccio (Emma Goldman), Josh Walden (Harry K. Thaw), Rock of Ages' Savannah Wise (Evelyn Nesbit) and Sammy & Me's Eric Jordan Young (Booker T. Washington), a Broadway vet who appeared in the original Broadway production of Ragtime.

The cast also features Sumayya Ali, Terence Archie, Corey Bradley, Jayden Brockington, Benjamin Cook, Carey Brown, Jennifer Evans, Carly Hughes, Lisa Karlin, Valisia LeKae, James Moye, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Mamie Parris, Bryonha Parham, Nicole Powell, Kaylie Robinaccio, Arbender J. Robinson, Benjamin Schrader, Wallace Smith, Catherine Walker, Jim Weaver and Kylil Williams.

Here's how the producers characterize the musical: "At the dawn of the century, everything is changing…and anything is possible. Based on E.L. Doctorow's celebrated epic novel and set in the volatile melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York, Ragtime weaves together three distinctly American tales — that of a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician — united by their courage, compassion and belief in the promise of the future. 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."

The Broadway run of Ragtime is produced by Kevin McCollum, Roy Furman, Scott Delman, Roger Berlind, Max Cooper, Tom Kirdahy/Devlin Elliott, Jeffrey A. Sine, Stephanie McClelland, Roy Miller, LAMS Productions, Jana Robbins, Sharon Karmazin, Eric Falkenstein/Morris Berchard, Wendy Federman, Jamie deRoy, Sheila Steinberg, Lauren Stevens, Independent Presenters Network, Held-Haffner Productions, HRH Foundation and 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 sold-out limited engagement through May 17.

The production team also includes scenic design by Derek McLane, costume design by Santo Loquasto, lighting design by Donald Holder, sound design by Acme Sound Partners and hair and wig design by Edward J. Wilson.

After a world premiere in Toronto, Ragtime opened on Broadway on Jan. 18, 1998, at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Ragtime plays the following schedule: Tuesday evening at 7 PM, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday matinee at 2 PM, Sunday matinee at 3 PM. Dark Monday.

Ragtime ticket prices are $46.50, $86.50 and $126.50 (including $1.50 facility fee) and are available by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com.

For more information visit www.ragtimebroadway.com.


The score to the show is available on two recordings: "Songs from Ragtime," a studio recording released around the time of the Toronto world premiere in 1996, and the original Broadway cast album of 1998 (on two discs).


The producers of the Broadway revival of Ragtime announced a way to see the show for a song: a lottery ticket program.

Two hours prior to each performance of Ragtime, patrons will be invited to enter a lottery drawing at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 West 52nd Street) for a limited number of $26.50 lottery tickets to that day's performance. Names will be drawn at random 90 minutes prior to curtain. There will be a limit of two tickets per person and tickets may be purchased using cash only. Winners must be present with valid identification at the time of the drawing to purchase their tickets.