Ragtime Casting Nears A Wrap

News   Ragtime Casting Nears A Wrap
Last call for Ragtime roles commenced July 17 in Toronto as the show entered its final three-day round of casting auditions. Results will be posted as soon as contracts can be finalized--which, it is hoped, will be some time next week. Members of the cast are being asked to sign up for a two-year haul that will carry the show from its Toronto world-premiere to its Broadway launching.

The historical roles in Terrence McNally's adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's classic novel--actual people like industrialist J.P. Morgan, architect Sanford White, automobile manufacturer Henry Ford and that notorious red-velvet swinger, Evelyn Nesbit--have yet to be cast. However, Camille Saviola (who played "Mama Maddelena, Chief of Chambermaids" in 1982's Nine) is said to have a lock on Communist firebrand Emma Goldman, a flashy character previously played to Oscar-winning effect by Maureen Stapleton in the movie Reds.

Director Frank Gilati and producer Garth Drabinsky filled five of the show's fictional roles last week. Brian Mitchell--now Brian Stokes Mitchell--will play the central role of ragtime pianist "Coalhouse Walker Jr.," and two-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald has been cast as his love interest, "Sarah." Marin Mazzie, the married mistress from Passion, will play "Mother" an enlighted woman who takes into her home Sarah and her infant. "Tateh," the Jewish immigrant determined to make a new life for himself in America, will mark the musical debut of Peter Friedman. And the role of "Mother's Younger Brother" has been taken by a Canadian actor, Steven Sutcliffe, a Shaw Festival veteran.

Now, "only" 53 other roles have to be cast. These first five previously performed their parts in either the York University readings or the May workshop production at The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre. Right now, they--and three dozen other singers who have done workshops of Ragtime--are at work on Songs from 'Ragtime,' The Musical, a concept recording of the Livent Inc. show which was to be finished July 17 after a three-day session at Toronto's Manta Sound Studios. This album is the first venture in a four-year deal that RCA Victor/BMG Classics has struck to record the original cast albums of Livent's upcoming productions. Jay David Saks, a six-time Grammy winner, produced the album which will be released in Canada Oct. 7 and in the U.S. Nov. 19 when preview performances begin at Toronto's Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The musical will have its world premiere there on Sunday, Dec. 8, 1996. A Broadway production is being planned for December 1997 or January 1998.

  Ragtime features lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. The team previously wrote the score for Once on This Island, which received eight Tony nominations in 1990 and won the Best Musical Olivier Award in 1995. They also collaborated on My Favorite Year at Lincoln Center in 1991 and Lucky Stiff at Playwrights Horizons in 1988. At present, they're at work on the score for 20th Century-Fox's first full-length animated feature, Anastasia, starring the voices of Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Loyd, Bernadette Peters and Angela Lansbury. It's due next year.

The creative team assembled for Ragtime includes lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauser (who were just brought Tony Awards by Bring in 'Da Funk, Bring in 'Da Noise), choreographer Graciela Daniele (a contender for Chronicle of a Death Foretold), two-time Tony-winning set designer Eugene Lee (Show Boat, Sweeney Todd) and three-time Tony-winning costume designer Santo Loquasto (The Cherry Orchard, Cafe Crown, Grand Hotel).

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