Ragtime ended a one-month stint at the Kennedy Center yesterday. The musical was interesting and entertaining. It’s based on a 1975 novel by E.L. Doctrow. The play opened on Broadway in 1998 and closed in 2000. I thoroughly enjoyed the play – especially since I scored a deal with $25 tickets for the first row of the balcony (binoculars were crucial).
The play centers around the three very different but connected lives of Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a piano player from Harlem; Mother, a wealthy woman from New York; and Tateh, a Jewish immigrant. Loaded with historical fiction, it tells a story of this era, in the 1910s before World War I. Many historical figures make an appearance including Booker T. Washington, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford and Harry Houdini.
Mother’s family has led a charmed life. Though we find out though that her husband, known Father, is well-traveled but quite unkind and lacks passion. Coalhouse is in love with a woman named Sarah, but they aren’t together because he has to travel so much as a musician. Unbeknownst to Coalhouse, Sarah is pregnant, but gives up her baby. Mother finds the baby in the garden, and takes responsibility for the baby and Sarah. Tateh and his daughter have immigrated to America in search of a better life. He starts out selling silhouettes on the street corner and eventually becomes a movie director.
Ragtime is both tragic and triumphant. The set was amazing, and the music is lovely. I would highly recommend this play if it ever comes to a city near you.