Review of Ragtime, the Musical, at Theater Latte’ Da
Quote of the Day: I’m using the same one that director Peter Rothstein used in his “Notes from the Director” in the program for Ragtime, the Musical, lyrics from New Music:
I’ve Come to Hear New Music
Breaking my Heart
Opening a Door
Changing the World
Ragtime music emerged in the 1890’s and flooded the music industry in the early 1900’s. Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag sold over a million copies and sales of pianos soared. I love that! I’m a pianist and a piano teacher. I’ve always loved playing rags. One of my favorite go-to books is a collection of Scott Joplin songs. So, when I heard that Theater Latte’ Da was doing Ragtime, I made every effort to put it on my reviewing list. I also wanted my boys to see and hear it, so I brought them with me.
The performance was everything I’d imagined it to be and more. All the performers are gifted and give the music and story so much heart. You can’t help but ache for their shattered dreams, the roadblocks to a successful, peaceful life, the tragedies, and moments of tenderness and compassion. Life is complicated, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. My boys were surprised that it had so much social relevance. They probably thought it was going to be mainly about the music. The music is the thread that ties it together, giving the multi-layered stories a common melody and a rhythm. Rags are known for their steady baseline, rocking between octaves, back and forth like the chug of the train, while the right hand is jumping around in a syncopated melody. At times, it seems very complicated, and other measures are easy and melodic. The baseline is our steady heartbeat, and the syncopation is the individual’s path.
The themes of Ragtime, the Musical, are the same ones we face today: racism, poverty, fear and oppression of immigrants, distrust of anyone who is different from you, the rich and powerful having too much control, the quest for justice, and always the need to be heard. Ragtime, the music, is truly an American music. Ragtime, the Musical, is the American story. I think that we can all find ourselves somewhere in this story and in the haunting melodies.
Theater Latte’ Da is now the proud owners of the historic Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis. It is the perfect setting for this play. The look and feel of the place blend directly into the set design. I had to look twice to believe that the backdrop wasn’t just the natural wall! The stage is fairly bare, with a piano moving in and out, and sometimes doubling as a car or a table top. All of the actors seem so perfectly cast. Their voices and talents shine in each character, some representing real people in America’s history like Harry Houdini, J.P Morgan, Emma Goldman, and Evelyn Nesbit. Other characters were created by novelist E.L. Doctorow and playwright Terrance McNally. The brilliant music and lyrics written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Ragtime was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, and awarded Best Book and Best Score. It is my new favorite musical, and I can’t get enough of the music. I’m asking the boys for the soundtrack and music book for Christmas!
Ragtime, the Musical is playing at the Ritz Theater by Theater Latte’ Da through October 23, 2016. Please visit their website for tickets and showtimes. America, this is your story.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What is your family’s history?