December 14, 1998
With its intoxicating rhythms, compelling stories, imaginative sets, and strong cast, Ragtime easily lives up to its advance hype. The Tony award-winning production, currently at the Paramount Theatre, is a richly-colored tapestry that adeptly blends history and fiction.
Based on E.L. Doctorow's novel, Ragtime details the lives of three remarkable families: an affluent white family, an African-American jazz musician from Harlem and his love, and a poor Jewish immigrant and his young daughter, whose paths dramatically collide with one another at turn-of-the-century America.
In epic fashion, the show evokes a myriad of emotions, taking the audience on a journey of passion, tragedy, desire, triumph, and disillusionment. The characters struggle with personal fulfillment and hopes of a better existence amid the social turmoil of a country undergoing tumultuous change.
Actors portraying famous personalities, which include Harry Houdini, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Booker T. Washington, and Henry Ford, are commentators of the era, providing a timeline of events in a new era of American history. The show hooks audiences from the start with its colorful and exciting opening number and continues to captivate and mesmerize for the full three hours.
There were several standouts in the talented cast, particularly Alton F. White as Coalhouse Walker, Jr.; Michael Rupert as Tateh; Darlesia Cearcy as Sarah; and Rebecca Eichenberger as Mother. Their powerful voices were filled with passion and their performances were compelling and believable.
It is the music of this show, however, that is truly memorable and lingers long after the final curtain falls.
Ragtime runs through Jan. 9. For ticket information, call 206-292-ARTS.