‘Ragtime’ memories


I received a pleasant surprise yesterday when I logged into my email. (That’s a lie; as if I log into my email anymore. I’m always connected — which is either really handy or incredibly pathetic, depending on your priorities.)

What should I find, but press photos from Drury Lane’s new production of Ragtime (which is currently playing through May 23)!

(Photo credits: Brett Beiner)

Apparently, director Rachel Rockwell has pulled out all the stops and has staged the biggest production in Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace’s history, featuring a cast of 33 (I wonder how many players are in the pit?). They were able to snag the original Broadway costumes by Santo Loquasto, as well as set designer Kevin Depinet, who, along with Todd Rosenthal, was responsible for August: Osage County‘s storied set. Furthermore, Quentin Earl Darrington, who starred as Coalhouse in the recent Broadway revival, is recreating the role in this production.

I’m seeing it this weekend. But first, I’m a-gonna reminisce about my previous Ragtime experiences.

The concept recording and the original Toronto cast album were constantly rotating in my CD player for years. It’s one of the few scores I could (at one time) sing from beginning to end from memory. (Sweeney Todd, Sunset Boulevard, and Gypsy were three others.)

In 1998 and 1999, I was lucky enough to catch the original production, as directed by Frank Galati, designed by Eugene Lee and produced with over-abundance by Garth Drabinsky. Chicago’s Oriental/Ford Theatre had just been remodeled, and Ragtime was its inaugural production. A college student at the time in Michigan, I made two separate trips to the windy city to catch the production. Barbara Walsh was Mother, LaChanze was Sarah, and Hinton Battle played Colehouse. It was an AMAZING production — even from my nosebleed seats. I don’t care if it made Livent (Drabinsky’s production company) go bankrupt — it was an event I shan’t ever forget.

I then caught the significantly streamlined national tour in 2000 when it stopped in Lansing MI, which was directed by Galati and used Loquasto’s original costumes, but now had a wobbly bus-and-truck set by Lee and a smaller cast and orchestra. But, it was still Ragtime, and I still loved it. Porchlight Music Theatre recently had success with the show in Chicago, but I missed that production, so this weekend will be my first visit back to Ragtime in nearly a decade.

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7 Comments

  1. i definitely have to check this out, it sounds awesome. i’m so glad i wasn’t the only one who appreciated sunset blvd. it still ranks as one of my top five favorite musicals i’ve seen.
    i noticed andrew lloyd weber borrowed quite a few melodies from sunset and used them in love never dies.

    • As I get older, I can certainly see the weaknesses with “Sunset Blvd,” but, like POTO, I can’t help myself from loving it. I was lucky enough to catch the original Toronto cast with Diahann Carroll as Norma. (I also saw the tour with Petula Clark — yuck!)

  2. Kevin was the assistiant set designer for August: Osage county.

    • Thanks, Annon, for that correction. I’ve amended in the post.

  3. Having had the amazing fortune to see the EXQUISITE recent Broadway revival, I can tell you that Quentin Earl Darrington is worth the trip out to Drury Lane alone. He’s got a huge voice – kind of Norm Lewis-y in it’s depth and richness. I loved him. And Christiane Noll. Who blew my mind. But that’s a whole different story. :)

    Cannot wait to read your review!

    • I really look forward to seeing Darrington. In fact, Drury Lane press reps asked me to switch my press tickets for another night, as he was going to be out of the show Sunday. Glad they alerted me. I’m seeing it Sat. (tomorrow) night.

  4. [...] I’ve noted before, I’ve seen some Ragtime — from the awe-inspiring, ginormous original production when it [...]


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