Ragtime bowed on Broadway December 26, 1997, and officially opened January 18, 1998, at the newly renovated Ford Center for the Performing Arts (now the Lyric Theatre). The musical from book writer Terrence McNally, composer Stephen Flaherty, and lyricist Lynn Ahrens and directed by Frank Galati, earned 13 Tony nominations and won four: Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and Best Orchestrations.
The musical’s cast boasted numerous stars, many of whom had previously been nominated for (or won) Tony Awards. Yet, Ragtime seemed to solidify each of their statuses and catapult them to a new level. From Brian Stokes Mitchell to Audra McDonald, from Marin Mazzie to Peter Friedman, the careers of the original cast have wowed with their longevity and impact. A reunion concert to benefit The Actors Fund was announced earlier this year—though no date has been listed. Until then, take a look at where the original cast of Ragtime is now.
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Coalhouse Walker Jr.
Having already appeared on Broadway in Mail and Okay! and replacing in starring roles in Jelly’s Last Jam and Kiss of the Spider Woman, Mitchell truly made his mark as a performer of his generation as Coalhouse Walker Jr. He originated the role of Coalhouse in the pre-Broadway productions of Ragtime and earned his first Drama Desk and Tony nominations. After leaving Ragtime in December of 1998, he starred opposite Marin Mazzie (his Ragtime co-star) in the 1999 revival of Kiss Me, Kate, this time winning the Drama Desk and Tony Awards. In 2001, he left Kiss Me, Kate to star in King Hedley II (earning Drama Desk and Tony nominations) and then took on the role of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, for which he earned his fourth Drama Desk and Tony nominations. He played Sweeney Todd in the Kennedy Center production in 2002, returned to Broadway in 2005 for Love/Life, and starred as Emile de Becque in the PBS broadcast of South Pacific. He and Mazzie also performed in the 2006 Encores! mounting of Kismet. After a long hiatus from Broadway, touring the country performing solo concerts and producing his self-titled album, Mitchell returned to the Great White Way alongside Patti LuPone in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Most recently, he joined his Ragtime co-star Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. Mitchell released another solo album, Simply Broadway in 2012, and is currently working on a third titled Plays With Music. Outside of the stage world, Mitchell is a well known face in TV, having played recurring roles on Frasier, Glee (as one of Rachel’s two dads), Mr. Robot as Scott Knowles, and Hulu’s The Path as Bill. He’s had guest spots on The Good Fight and Billions and is currently shooting the new pilot Fam alongside original Dreamgirls star Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Peter Friedman, Tateh
Friedman had already enjoyed a long career on Broadway before Ragtime. He made his Broadway debut in 1972 in The Great God Brown, and performed in ten more Broadway shows (including the original Heidi Chronicles) before originating the role of Tateh. After being nominated for both a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his performance in Ragtime, Friedman performed in 2004’s Twelve Angry Men on Broadway, and Body Awareness, The Hatmaker’s Wife, and The Great God Pan Off-Broadway. He was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for his performances in Body Awareness and The Hatmaker’s Wife. Recently, Friedman has appeared regularly on screen in series like The Affair, The Path (Hank), and Succession (Francis).
Marin Mazzie, Mother
Marin Mazzie was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Mother in Ragtime, her second nomination after Passion. Mazzie was another actor whose talent had been established on Broadway (thanks to replacement roles in Into the Woods and her turn in Passion), but Ragtime set her apart. After Ragtime she moved on to Kiss Me, Kate as Lilly/Katharine, for which she earned a Tony nomination. She took that role to the West End in 2001. In 2003, she replaced as Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, again joining Mitchell. She performed in the Encores! production of Kismet in 2006, the New York Philharmonic staged concert of Camelot; she replaced as The Lady of the Lake in Spamalot on Broadway and as Diana in Next to Normal opposite her husband, actor Jason Danieley. She starred in 2010's ENRON on Broadway, earned a Drama Desk for Carrie Off-Broadway, and returned to the Main Stem for Bullets Over Broadway in 2014 and The King and I in 2015. In 2017, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and just this year she starred in Classic Stage Company’s production of Fire and Air.
Audra McDonald, Sarah
Audra McDonald won her third Tony Award for her performance in Ragtime, having won already for Carousel and Master Class. After Ragtime, she won three more for A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. That sixth award made her the most Tony-awarded performer in history, as well as the only woman to win in all four acting categories. Immediately following Ragtime, McDonald took on the titular role in Marie Christine in 1999 and then Lady Percy in the 2003 Broadway revival of Henry IV. In 2004 came A Raisin in the Sun. She made her opera debut in 2006 with La Voix humaine and went on to perform in several other operas. In 2007, she appeared in Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of 110 in the Shade, for which she shared the Drama Desk Award with Donna Murphy. After Porgy and Bess in 2012 and Lady Day in 2014, McDonald starred in Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed in 2016. The birth of her daughter caused her to postpone her London engagement of Lady Day, which she then performed in 2017, marking her official West End debut. She has released several solo albums and given several solo concerts. Over the years, McDonald has oscillated between stage and screen with a regular role on television’s Mister Sterling, The Bedford Diaries, Private Practice, and now The Good Fight on CBS All Access. (She played Mother Abbess in the first-ever live television musical event The Sound of Musical Live on NBC.) She was featured alongside Meryl Streep in Ricki and the Flash, and as the Wardrobe in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Back in 2001, McDonald earned her first Emmy nomination for Wit. Since then, she has been nominated four other times: as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, as part of the company of Carousel broadcast by Live from Lincoln Center, as part of the company of Sweeney Todd broadcast by Live from Lincoln Center (which won Special Class program), and for her portrayal of Billie Holliday in Lady Day made for HBO. In 2009, she became a Grammy winner as part of Best Opera Recording winner Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
Mark Jacoby, Father
Even before playing Father in Ragtime, Mark Jacoby had a very successful career on Broadway. He played Vittorio Vidal in Sweet Charity, the title character in The Phantom of the Opera, stood by for several characters in Grand Hotel before replacing as Felix Von Gaigern, and Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat, which earned him a Tony nomination. After Ragtime, he went on to play The Padre in Man of La Mancha (joining his Ragtime co-star Mitchell), Judge Turpin in the 2005 Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, Walter Hobbs in Elf: The Musical, and as The Wizard of Oz in the national tour of Wicked beginning in 2011. Jacoby created multiple characters in the Nashville tryout of The Nutty Professor. Jacoby has appeared in film and television in small roles on Law & Order, The Blacklist, and the Oscar-nominated The Post.
Judy Kaye, Emma Goldman
Before Ragtime, Judy Kaye was already well known for her work as the original Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera (for which she won a Tony), Rizzo in Grease, Lily Garland in the original Broadway production of On The Twentieth Century, and many other roles. After remaining with Ragtime for the entirety of its run, she played Rosie in Mamma Mia! on Broadway, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. She took over for Patti LuPone as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd in 2006. She stayed in that role for the North American tour. Kaye was featured in Broadway’s original musical comedy Nice Work If You Can Get It in 2012 as well as Cinderella in 2013. In 2016, she joined the company of Wicked on Broadway as Madame Morrible. Performing across the country in regional productions, Kaye has taken on the roles of Nettie Fowler in Carousel, Sally in Follies, and many more.
Jim Corti, Harry Houdini
Like many other members of the cast, Jim Corti came to the cast of Ragtime with other Broadway credits under his belt. He had previously appeared in Candide, A Chorus Line, and Music Is. After Ragtime on Broadway, Corti played Tateh in the national tour of the show; he joined the world premiere cast of The Visit in Chicago and the national tour of Urinetown. He then began his career as a director and choreographer, working on shows like Les Misérables, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, and more in regional theatres across the country.
Tommy Hollis, Booker T. Washington
Prior to Ragtime, Hollis appeared on Broadway in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars and on screen in Ghostbusters and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. After Ragtime, Hollis was featured in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer on Broadway in 2001, but passed away later that year due to complications from diabetes.
Lynnette Perry, Evelyn Nesbit
Lynnette Perry originated the role of vaudeville star Evelyn Nesbit in the world premiere of Ragtime and originated the role in the Broadway production. She made her Broadway debut in Grand Hotel prior to Ragtime, but has largely withdrawn from performing. Married to producer Kevin McCollum, the two recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his Avenue Q.
Steven Sutcliffe, Younger Brother
Sutcliffe made his Broadway debut as Mother’s Younger Brother, and earned a Drama Desk nomination for his performance. In 2001, he appeared in Encores! production of A Connecticut Yankee and the world premiere of The Visit. Sutcliffe has been working in regional houses such as Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and The Shaw Festival and helped found the theatre company Theatre20 in Toronto.
Larry Daggett, Henry Ford
Daggett made his Broadway debut with Ragtime, and though that was the last time he appeared on the Main Stem, Daggett has been active as an actor, pianist, and composer-lyricist. He performed in the New York City Opera’s 2005 and 2008 revivals of Candide, and in the national tour of Red, Hot and Cole. Having been seen Off-Broadway in What Makes Sammy Run? in 2006 and Mr. President at Playwrights Horizons, Daggett has been involved with the site-specific production of Ragtime. Directed by Sammi Cannold, Daggett performed as part of the cast for the one-night-only Ragtime on Ellis Island and has been part of the productions subsequent workshops. This year, Daggett produced a short musical film noir Better Dead Than Red for which he wrote the book, music, and lyrics. He was also named Best Actor in a Musical from the Independent Reviews of New England for his work in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Conrad McLaren, Grandfather/Foreman
Prior to Ragtime, Conrad McLaren performed in Guys and Dolls on Broadway, Company Off-Off Broadway, and several films, including Silver Bullet and American Playhouse, but has been relatively inactive in the theatre industry since.
David Mucci, Willie Conklin
After originating the role of Willie Conklin in Ragtime on Broadway, David Mucci joined the first national tour of Mamma Mia! in 2000 as Bill. He appeared on screen in Law & Order and the television movie Lucky Day after his time in the Ahrens and Flaherty musical.
Alex Strange, The Little Boy Edgar
Before Ragtime, Alex Strange appeared on Broadway in Les Misérables as a replacement for Gavroche. Strange has since opted out of an acting career and traded it for a culinary life as a mixologist.
Lea Michele, The Little Girl
Before Lea Michele was Glee’s Rachel Berry, she was in several Broadway shows. She started out as Young Cosette and Young Eponine in Les Misérables on Broadway. After Ragtime, she played Shprintze in Fiddler on the Roof in 2004, and starred as Wendla in the original Spring Awakening. Then in 2009, Ryan Murphy wrote the role of Rachel Berry on Glee specifically for Michele, a role that earned her two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination. She was nominated for multiple Grammys as part of the cast of Glee. She released her first solo album Louder in 2014 and her second solo album Places in 2017. She also wrote two books, the first of which debuted at number three on the New York Times Bestseller List. In 2015, she played Hester Ulrich on Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens and in 2017 she played Valentina Barella on the short-lived comedy The Mayor. This past summer she embarked on a concert tour with her former Glee castmate, Darren Criss.