By Kenneth Jones
26 May 2012
|Photo by Emily Cooper|
Ragtime (continuing in repertory to Oct. 14) is already a box-office hit for the festival devoted to thought-inspiring works in the tradition of George Bernard Shaw. It's the highest-selling show this season, followed by Present Laughter. May performances are averaging over 80 percent sold with half of the performances sold out.
Shaw Festival artistic director Jackie Maxwell directs the large-cast show based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow. Ragtime, the story of three disparate communities — a white, upper-middle class family in New Rochelle, an African-American musician and his girlfriend in Harlem, an Eastern European immigrant and his daughter in the Lower East Side — intermingling (uneasily) at the beginning of the 20th century, has a book by Terrence McNally and score by Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). The writers won 1998 Tony Awards for their work; the show had its pre-Broadway tryout in 1996 in Toronto.
The show's weave includes the historical figures of escape artist Harry Houdini, civil rights leader Booker T. Washington, political activist Emma Goldman, banker J.P. Morgan, inventor Henry Ford and stage star Evelyn Nesbit.
The Shaw production team includes set and costume designer Sue LePage, lighting designer Alan Brodie, projection designer Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson and sound designer John Lott, plus stage manager Diane Konkin and assistant stage managers Amy Jewell and Leigh McClymont.
The Shaw Festival's 2012 season runs until Oct. 28 and features 11 productions presented on the Festival's four stages. The titles include His Girl Friday; Come Back, Little Sheba; The Millionairess; Hedda Gabler; Trouble in Tahiti; and Helen's Necklace. For more information, visit shawfest.com.