Ragtime, is an impressive musical from the writing team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Based on E L Doctorow’s compelling novella of the same name, this musical sweeps turn of the century America, drawing on 3 different family experiences that would make up the melting pot of 20th Century USA. The original production was large in style and scale, featuring an impressive orchestra and cast that have gone on to symbolise the scale of the piece. Twinned with an emotional score of hit after hit makes Ragtime one of the most powerful new musicals of recent times. Numerous revivals have failed to do the justice to the original production which lives in the hearts of those lucky enough to see the show in its initial form.
'Ragtime' by E L Doctorow
Livent (U.S.) Inc.
Ragtime Original Broadway
Hilton Theatre (now Foxwoods) - Opened 18 Jan 1998, closed 16 Jan 2000
Cast: Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Peter Friedman, Audra McDonald, Judy Kaye, Mark Jacoby and Lea Michele.
Ragtime Original London
Piccadilly Theatre - Opened 19 Mar 2003, closed 14 Jun 2003
Cast: Maria Friedman
Ragtime Broadway Revival
J F Kennedy Centre of Performing Arts, Neil Simon Theatre - Opened 18 Apr 2009, closed 10 Jan 2010
Cast: Stephanie Umoh (Sarah), Quentin Earl Darrington (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.), Christiane Noll (Mother), Robert Petkoff (Tateh), Bobby Steggert (Younger Brother), Donna Migliaccio (Emma Goldman) and Ron Bohmer (Father)
Ragtime London Revival
Regent's Park Open Air - Opened 18 May 2012, closed 8 Sep 2012
Cast: Tamsin Carroll, Rolan Bell, David Birrell, Rosalie Craig.
What was your favourite production? Add your thoughts in the comments box
At the turn of the 20th century, three family’s of very different backgrounds are all making a life for themselves in New York. An upper-class Protestant family consisting of Mother, Father, Mother’s Younger Brother, Grandfather, and the Little Boy (Edgar) live in New Rochelle. Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah each live in the vibrant centre of Harlem, where “Ragtime” is being born. Meanwhile, Tateh sets off in search of the American Dream
Father sets off on an expedition for the North Pole, and Mother reflects on his impending absence (“Goodbye, My Love”). In New York Harbour, he passes Tateh’s ship as it nears Ellis Island. Meanwhile, Mother finds a newborn black baby buried in her garden. The police bring Sarah, who turns out to be the baby’s mother, to the scene of the crime. Mother defends Sarah and ultimately takes her in.
Tateh has begun his life in America making silhouettes, but finds “Success” elusive. Coalhouse sings in Harlem of the love he lost, who turns out to be Sarah, and he decides to win her back. He then buys a Model T from “Henry Ford.” As Sarah sings to her son in her new home in New Rochelle (“Your Daddy’s Son”), Coalhouse arrives hoping to rekindle their relationship.
Mother and Edgar meet Tateh and his Little Girl on a trip into New York City (“Nothing Like the City”). Time passes and Father returns from the North Pole to find Coalhouse singing ragtime in their home. Coalhouse takes Sarah on a picnic with their son, and he manages to convince her that he has changed. They reflect on how the American Dream promises them a better life (“Wheels of a Dream”).
Younger Brother finds himself at a rally with the anarchist Emma Goldman, and his life takes a turn after “The Night That Goldman Spoke.” Soon the rally turns into a riot and the town is in an uproar. Coalhouse and Sarah are stopped by the fire squad who demand a toll from Coalhouse because he is black. When he refuses to pay, they destroy his Model T. Coalhouse is enraged that their society has no sense of “Justice,” and decides to end his engagement to Sarah until he is able to replace his car.
Sarah hopes to find someone who will help obtain justice for Coalhouse, so she heads to a vice-presidential rally to speak to the candidate about the incident. The Secret Service mistake her for an assassin and beat her to death. At her funeral, the town’s simmering racial and economic tensions boil over and Coalhouse and Younger Brother set off to avenge her death.
Coalhouse begins to destroy New Rochelle, both burning properties and killing innocent people. A prominent figure in the African-American community, Booker T. Washington attempts to reason with Coalhouse to no avail. Father takes Edgar to a baseball game, hoping it will distract him from the destruction around them, but they cannot ignore the “Fire in the City.
Father decides to move the family to “Atlantic City” for their own safety. They are surprised to run into Tateh who has become a wealthy film director. Mother and Tateh are pleased with the budding friendship between Edgar and Little Girl (“Our Children”).
Younger Brother finds Coalhouse and tries to convince him he should be allowed to join the cause (“He Wanted to Say”). Father goes to New York to reason with them both and find a way to get things “Back to Before,” when he discovers that Coalhouse has taken over a library and is threatening to blow it up. He seeks out Booker T. Washington, who manages to convince Coalhouse he should work out a peace deal for the sake of his son.
Despite Younger Brother’s protestations, Coalhouse manages to convince his gang to leave peacefully and begin to make their opinions heard in other ways (“Make Them Hear You”). As he is leaving the library, Coalhouse is shot and killed by the police.
Edgar agrees that he will continue to tell Coalhouse’s story, and the remaining members of the family remain hopeful of a better world around the corner.
- Goodbye My Love
- Journey On
- The Crime of the Century
- What Kind of Woman
- A Shtetl Iz Amereke
- His Name Was Coalhouse Walker
- Gettin’ Ready Rag
- Henry Ford
- Nothing Like the City
- Your Daddy’s Son
- The Courtship
- New Music
- Wheels Of A Dream
- The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square
- The Trashing of the Car
- Till We Reach That Day
- Harry Houdini, Master Escapist
- Coalhouse’s Soliloquy
- Coalhouse Demands
- What a Game
- Fire in the City
- Atlantic City
- Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.
- Our Children
- Harlem Nightclub
- Sarah Brown Eyes
- He Wanted to Say
- Back To Before
- Look What You’ve Done
- Make Them Hear You
- Epilogue: Wheels of a Dream/Ragtime (reprise)
1998 Tony Awards: Best Book, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actress (Audra Mc Donald), Best Orchestrations.
2004 Olivier Awards: Best Actress in a Musical (Maria Friedman)
UK: Josef Weinberger
USA: Musical Theatre International