Report From the 'Ragtime' Workshops | Playbill

News Report From the 'Ragtime' Workshops
If a single star has emerged from the first two read-throughs of the forthcoming musicalization of Ragtime, it would be Brian Mitchell.

On the basis of his performances so far, Mitchell seems to have sewed up the role of Coalhouse Walker Jr., the principal martyr of E.L. Doctorow's 1975 turn-of-the-century novel.

That's the part that put Howard E. Rollins into the Oscar running when director Milos Forman and adapter Michael Weller turned the book to film in 1981--and it should have a similar Tony-nominating effect on Mitchell, who previously well-served the show's producer (Livent's Garth Drabinsky) replacing Anthony Crivello on Broadway in "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Before that, he starred in David Merrick's last show, "Oh, Kay!"

This current musical resurrection of "Ragtime" is the collective work of Terrence McNally (book), Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics). The latter two were the songwriters for Lincoln Center's short-lived "My Favorite Year"; McNally just collected a Tony for "Love! Valour! Compassion" and appears headed back to the Tony races this season via "Master Class."

"Ragtime" is being directed by Steppenwolf's Frank Galati, who helmed the Tony-winning adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath," and its musical staging will be the work ofc horeographer Graciela Daniele, who'll be entering the picture when the project goes into a five- or six-week workshop in the spring.

No definite casting has been posted, but an impressive collection of Names has been trundling up to Toronto to get in on the ground floor of the workshops. Donna Murphy, currently embroiled with the revival of "The King and I," couldn't make the second "Ragtime" workshop, and her role--Mother to Stephen Bogardus' Father--was taken by Ann ("Aspects of Love") Crumb. Producers are reportedly hoping that Murphy will be free of her "King and I" commitment by the time that "Ragtime" starts heading toward Broadway--whenever that is. Peter Friedman, heretofore a nonmusical actor on Broadway ("The Heidi Chronicles") and off ("And a Nightingale Sang") as well as on television ("Brooklyn Bridge"), surprised the"Ragtime" creators with his singing voice, and that puts him out front for the role of the immigrant businessman, Tateh.

Of the actual historical personages who populate Doctorow's book and Forman's film, the musical is utilizing Henry Ford, Emma Goldman (played in the Toronto readings by Tovah Feldshuh), J. P. Morgan and Evelyn Nesbit. But the two men whom the latter pushed into a fatal confrontation--Harry K. Thaw and Stanford White--were conspicuously missing from the most recent workshop of "Ragtime."

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