The musical “Ragtime” is set during a time of massive change. Adapted from the novel by E.L. Doctorow, it simultaneously takes on the legacy of slavery, the immigrant experience, and the grinding change to the status quo of the comfortably wealthy.
Created originally as a large Broadway fanfare, Park Square Theatre has toned down its production. Critics say this allows more room for the characters to breathe, and connect with the audience.
Scroll down to read excerpts of reviews – click on the links to read them in their entirety.
Brittany Bradford in the role of Sarah in Park Square’s production of “Ragtime”
Gary Gisselman’s grand production… unequivocally aims for our hearts with these stories. Yet it would diminish the value of both the musical and Gisselman’s treatment here to label the work merely sentimental. “Ragtime” takes a brisk and unflinching assessment of a society caught in the jaws of change, and creates central characters defined by bravery, pain, decency and a bedrock dedication to life. The portrayals are necessarily thin because “Ragtime” is more or less a narrated pageant; but writer Terrence McNally and lyricist Lynn Ahrens mine enough of Doctorow’s plot to provide texture.
This production feels absolutely essential by showing us American history through the lens of family.
Brittany Bradford as Sarah and Harry Waters, Jr. as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Park Square Theatre’s production of “Ragtime”
…Any misgivings about the material are mooted by the loveliness of the production. Great praise is due director Gary Gisselman who, working with a limited budget, has assembled a boffo cast, first rate musicians, excellent designers and a terrific choreographer. He stages the show with aplomb.
With the spectacle toned down, the characters have a chance to take center stage, and the show takes on a life that the massive Broadway production could never manage. The flaws are still there, especially in a second act that loses the central thread of the story for long stretches, but it’s easier to get swept along with this production.
Dieter Bierbrauer as Tateh in Park Square Theatre’s production of “Ragtime”
It’s a production that is beautifully sung by its leading players and its extraordinary chorus, whose members not only blow us away with their gorgeous voices but also their ability to perform quick costume changes and enact, believably, a variety of nonspeaking roles. The music in the enormous musical, the largest production ever mounted at Park Square, is consistently excellent, but it’s in the acting that “Ragtime” occasionally falls short.
“Ragtime” runs through February 19 at Park Square Theatre. Have you seen the show? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.