Downtown Production of Tony-Nominated Musical Rags Returns to New York With Revisions
By Adam Hetrick
Rags, the Charles Strouse-Stephen Schwartz-Joseph Stein about immigrants arriving in a promising and dangerous America, will return to New York May 28 in a revised production by Beautiful Soup Theater Collective.
The original 1986 production of Rags, which boasts a lush and rousing score by Strouse and Schwartz, lasted only 22 performances, but has earned a cult following since its premiere. A revised 1991 Off-Broadway production fared better with critics.
The Beautiful Soup staging, which begins May 28, includes material from the original Broadway premiere and the 1991 American Jewish Theatre Off-Broadway revisal. Also included are further revisions to the material that were made prior to the 2011 Lyric Stage engagement – a large-scale production with a full orchestra.
Artistic director Steven Carl McCasland told Playbill.com that Rags will offer New Yorkers the first chance to hear a new finale for Act One, "a sweeping moment for Rebecca to express her anger with the way immigrants are treated in America," he said.
Projections of authentic photos from the Library of Congress will conjure turn-of-the-century Suffolk Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. An eight-piece orchestra will be featured.
"Joe Stein, before he died, worked very, very hard on the rewrites – shortening and bolstering certain characters," Strouse told Playbill.com in a 2011 interview for the Lyric Stage production. "The framework of the piece was vastly improved. Joe and Stephen and I, but mostly Joe, made significant changes in the structure. We eliminated one character and looked at all kinds of things. It made it smoother and gave it more of a relevancy that it didn't have before."
McCasland directs the engagement that will run through June 9 at the Connelly Theatre.
As previously reported, collective member Anna Kirkland will star as Rebecca. She will be joined by Barnaby Edwards as Ben, Erin Elizabeth Eichhorn as Bella, Linda Wielkotz as Rachel, Andrew Dorph as Avram, Kenneth Kyle Martinez as Saul, Christopher Leidenfrost as Nathan and Jeremiah Burch as David with Dan Cake, Salvatore Casto, Emma Brock, Joris De Graaf, Morgan DeTogne, Lily Drexler, Dana Feinberg, Harmony McGivey, David Speer, Samantha Mercado, Amanda Szymczak and Jeff Van Damme.
Rags, which features music by Strouse, lyrics by Schwartz and a book by Stein, played Broadway’s Mark Hellinger Theatre in August 1986. Although the run was brief, the musical garnered five Tony nominations and boasted a cast that included Teresa Stratas, Judy Kuhn, Terrence Mann, Lonny Price, Marcia Lewis, Dick Latessa and Larry Kert.
The production will also feature musical direction by Jordon Cunningham, lighting by Charlie Winter, projections by Brad Peterson and choreography by Avital Asuleen. Kyle Rosenberg stage manages.
The musical, according to earlier press notes, tells the story of "Rebecca, an immigrant who finds herself and her young son, David, very much alone in the brand new world of America. Through Rebecca's encounters and relationships with others experiencing similar struggles, Rags tells of the American experience when the 'melting pot' was an ideal many hoped to be a part of." The lush score features such tunes as "Brand New World," "Blame It on the Summer Night," "Dancing with the Fools" and the title tune.
A portion of the proceeds from this production will benefit The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; visit jdrf.org.
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