Ragtime (musical): Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cover of Ragtime cast recording.
Music Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics Lynn Ahrens
Book Terrence McNally
Basis E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime
Productions 1996 Toronto
1998 Broadway
1998 U.S. Tour
1999 U.S. Tour
2003 West End
International productions
2009 Broadway revival
Awards Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Score
Drama Desk for Best Musical
Drama Desk Award for Best Book

Ragtime is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty.

Based on the 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime tells the story of three groups in America, represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Harlem musician; Mother, the matriarch of a WASP family in New Rochelle, NY; and Tateh, a Latvian Jewish immigrant. Historical figures such as Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Booker T. Washington, J. P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Stanford White, Harry Kendall Thaw, Admiral Peary, Matthew Henson, and Emma Goldman also appear. The music includes marches, cakewalks, gospel and ragtime.


Production history



The musical had its world premiere in Toronto, where it opened at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts (later renamed the Toronto Centre for the Arts) on December 8, 1996, the brainchild of Canadian impresario Garth Drabinsky and his Livent Inc., the Toronto-production company he headed (within a year of Ragtime's Broadway opening, Livent would go bankrupt, and Drabinsky would later be convicted of fraud for activities related to his operation of the company). The show had a pre-Broadway tryout in Los Angeles before opening on Broadway on January 18, 1998 as the first production in the newly renovated Ford Center for the Performing Arts (since renamed the Hilton Theatre).

Directed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, Ragtime ran for two years, closing on January 16, 2000, after 834 performances. It was not financially successful, and some Broadway insiders consider its lavish production to have been the financial "undoing" of Livent.[1]

The original cast included Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Peter Friedman and Audra McDonald, who were all nominated for Tony Awards, as well as Judy Kaye, Mark Jacoby and Lea Michele.

Ragtime received mixed reviews, many critics noting that the dazzling production (with an $11 million budget, including fireworks and a working Model T automobile) overshadowed problems in the script. Ben Brantley's review in the New York Times was headlined "A diorama with nostalgia rampant." Nonetheless, it led the Tony Awards with 13 Tony Awards nominations in 1998, and was considered the front runner for the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical; however, it was upset by Disney's The Lion King. The musical won awards for Best Featured Actress (McDonald), Original Score, Book, and Orchestrations

Broadway Revival

The 2009 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts production moved to Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. Previews began October 23, 2009 and the show officially opened on November 15, 2009. The cast features Quentin Earl Darrington (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.), Christiane Noll (Mother), Bobby Steggert (Younger Brother), Donna Migliaccio (Emma Goldman) and Ron Bohmer (Father). The production was directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge. This was the first Broadway revival of the musical and the first Broadway revival of any 1990s musical. Ragtime opened to critical acclaim. The production closed on January 10, 2010 after 28 previews and 65 performances. This production had a big cast and orchestra, resulting in a not small weekly running cost. "There had been rumors in recent weeks that the show would not be able to survive into early 2010; there was apparently not enough of an advance sale to encourage the producers."[2]

Other productions

United States

Ragtime has become popular with regional theatre groups. Rights became available to high schools in 2006, after a performance by Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD. The Fulton Opera House's production won the 2004 Footsie Award under direction of Robin McKercher and choreographer Bernard Monroe.[3]

In July 2008, PCPA Theaterfest on the Central Coast of California produced the show on a thrust stage, and then took it to an outdoor amphitheater in Solvang, California.[4]

A new production opened at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC, on April 18, 2009, and ran through May 17, 2009, with direction and choreography by Marcia Milgrom Dodge.[5] [6]


Following its European premiere in a concert performance at the Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre in 2002, the musical was produced in the West End, London, by Sonia Friedman at the Piccadilly Theatre from 19 March 2003 - 14 June 2003. This production starred Maria Friedman in the role of Mother, for which she won the 2004 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical.[7]

A production in Auckland, New Zealand opened at the Auckland Music Theatre in 2007. NewImi Theatricals produced Ragtime in Japan. Musik und Buehne has produced a German version of the show.


Act I

The "Prologue" introduces the three major socio-ethnic groups represented in the musical: upper-class WASPs, African-Americans, and Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Major WASP characters include Father, a businessman and explorer; Mother, his wife; Edgar, a little boy and only child of Mother and Father; and Mother's Younger Brother, a "young man in search of something to believe in". The most important African-American characters are Coalhouse Walker Jr., a ragtime piano player; and Sarah, his lover. Among the immigrants are Tateh, a Latvian widower; and his daughter, the Little Girl. Several major historical figures are also characters in the musical: these include educator Booker T. Washington, escape artist Harry Houdini, entrepreneur Henry Ford, millionaire JP Morgan, anarchist Emma Goldman, and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit.

Father leaves to go on a voyage to the Arctic with Admiral Robert Peary and Matthew Henson, as Mother sings "Goodbye, My Love." As Father's ship leaves the harbor, it passes a ship of Jewish immigrants, including Tateh and the Little Girl, which is arriving in America. Father admires Tateh's bravery, but worries that he "hasn't a chance" in America. The scene ends with Father, Mother, and Tateh singing a trio called "Journey On."

Evelyn Nesbit performs a vaudeville song, "Crime of the Century," mocking her own notoriety. Younger Brother is in love with Evelyn, but she rebuffs his affections.

While gardening, Mother unearths a newborn black baby buried in the topsoil, and wonders "What Kind of Woman" would bury her child alive. The police arrive with Sarah, the baby's mother, and inform Mother that Sarah will be tried for attempted murder and the baby placed in an orphanage. Mother, to her own surprise, announces that she will take responsibility for Sarah and the baby.

The immigrants arrive ("A Shtetl Iz America"). Tateh becomes a silhouette artist, wishing for "Success," but not achieving it. Tenement life is so difficult that the Little Girl is often ill. Tateh makes plans to leave New York in order to find the life he dreamed of.

The scene shifts to Harlem, where Coalhouse is a respected musician ("His Name Was Coalhouse Walker"). Coalhouse confesses that he still loves Sarah, even though she ran away from him. He has just found out where Sarah lives and plans to "do [his] damnedest to see that she takes [him] back". Realizing that he needs to make a good impression on Sarah ("Gettin' Ready Rag"), he buys a Model T Ford. Henry Ford and his employees sing a paean to Mass Production and Ford's assembly line.

Tateh and the Little Girl pass through New Rochelle as they leave New York City, where they encounter Mother and Edgar ("Nothing Like the City"). Edgar predicts that his family will see Tateh and the Little Girl again, which Mother thinks is a ridiculous idea.

Sarah sings to her baby ("Your Daddy's Son"), explaining that Coalhouse left her for "other ladies and other tunes". She gave birth alone, frightened, and with extreme difficulty, which led her to unthinkingly bury her child. Coalhouse arrives, looking for Sarah. She refuses to see him; nevertheless, Coalhouse promises to return to the house every Sunday until Sarah takes him back. After weeks of this, Mother and Coalhouse become well acquainted ("The Courtship").

Father returns from his expedition to find Coalhouse playing a Ragtime song on the piano ("New Music"). Coalhouse serenades Sarah, his passionate song contrasting with Mother and Father's more dry and formal relationship. Sarah finally forgives Coalhouse and reunites with him. Sarah, Coalhouse, and the baby go on a picnic, and dream of traveling all around America in their car, once the baby is old enough ("Wheels of a Dream"). The car becomes a symbol of their freedom and the promise of a future.

Younger Brother inadvertently stumbles into an anarchist rally on "The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square," and becomes a convert to the worker's cause. The rally turns into a riot. Meanwhile, another riot/strike is taking place at the textile factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts where Tateh now works. Tateh comforts the Little Girl with a flipbook of her ice-skating. A man sees the "movie book" and offers to buy it. Tateh realizes that he has invented a lucrative product, and becomes hopeful that he might yet be successful ("Gliding").

Returning home from the picnic, Coalhouse, Sarah, and the baby are stopped by a squad of volunteer firemen led by Will Conklin, who demand that they pay a toll. Knowing that this is illegal extortion, Coalhouse sends his family away and leaves to find a police officer. The firemen then destroy Coalhouse's car and roll it into a lake ("The Trashing of the Car").

Incensed, Coalhouse seeks every avenue of "Justice" available, but to no avail: white lawyers refuse to take him seriously, and black lawyers don't consider a case of vandalism to be an important civil rights suit. Sarah learns that the vice-presidential candidate will visit New Rochelle and hold a rally. Believing that he can help Coalhouse, Sarah decides to complain to him ("President"). She runs toward him, yelling and waving her hand. A passerby mistakes her for a would-be assassin, and the Secret Service beats her to death.

The act ends with Sarah's funeral. The white family, Coalhouse, and Sarah's friends, as well as Emma Goldman and Tateh, sing of their hope that one day there will be justice regardless of race, and they'll never get to Heaven "'Til We Reach That Day".

Act II

Edgar has a prophetic nightmare about Harry Houdini and a fatal explosion ("Harry Houdini, Master Escapist").

Coalhouse abandons his musical career and vows to get justice on his own terms ("Coalhouse's Soliloquy"). He begins terrorizing New Rochelle with guns and arson, demanding that his car be restored and Will Conklin turned over to him ("Coalhouse Demands"). Many unrelated firemen are killed. The black community is divided: while some, including Booker T. Washington, refuse to support Coalhouse, a group of young men join him.

Father takes Edgar to a baseball game, expecting that it will be a civilized, relaxing way to spend the afternoon ("What a Game"). However, the spectators are rude and violent, and Father notes with horror that nearly none of the players have "American" names.

Coalhouse announces that unless his demands are met, he will burn down firehouses ("Fire in the City").

As social workers attempt to take Sarah's baby from Mother's custody and the violence escalates, Father moves his family to "Atlantic City". Evelyn Nesbit and Harry Houdini are also in Atlantic City. Tateh appears, now very successful, and going by the name of Baron Ashkenazy. Through the success of his flip-books, he learned photography, invented a projector, and became a movie director. He now has his own company: "Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc". Edgar and the Little Girl become friends, while Mother and Tateh note how simple and profound children's lives are, especially their ability to run "toward the future, from the past" ("Our Children"). Tateh admits his true identity to Mother.

In a "Harlem Nightclub", Coalhouse watches a couple dance and remembers his first meeting with "Sarah Brown Eyes". Younger Brother seeks out Coalhouse, anxious to join his cause. Emma Goldman explains that Younger Brother wishes he could tell Coalhouse about his desire for justice ("He Wanted to Say"), but in reality, all Younger Brother says is "I know how to blow things up."

The authorities in New Rochelle contact Father, hoping that he will be able to get through to Coalhouse. Father leaves, telling Mother he hopes they will be able to return to their happy lives. Mother, however, realizes that she can never go "Back to Before".

Coalhouse and his group take over the Morgan Library, a museum containing irreplaceable cultural and historical treasures. Father suggests sending Booker T. Washington into the library to reason with Coalhouse. Coalhouse initially refuses to listen to Washington's assertions that he's significantly set back civil rights and will be responsible for his group's collective death, but finally returns to sanity when Washington mentions that Coalhouse is leaving his son a legacy of murder and lies ("Look What You've Done"). Washington convinces Coalhouse to surrender peacefully under the condition that his men go free and he receives a fair trial.

Father enters the Library as a voluntary hostage. Coalhouse's men denounce his decision as a defeat. Coalhouse, realizing the error of his ways, tells his men to continue the fight through peaceful means such as sermons, writing, and passing on their story to their children ("Make Them Hear You"). The Gang and Younger Brother leave peacefully, but as Coalhouse leaves the library, he is killed by the police.

Edgar turns on a period film projector and announces that the era of Ragtime is over. The characters step forward and inform us of their fates. Younger Brother escapes to Mexico to join the peasant revolution. Several historical instances are mentioned, such as Emma Goldman's deportation, Booker T. Washington's Tuskeegee Institute, Evelyn Nesbit's fall from the public eye, Harry Houdini's mystical experience when Archduke Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated and he remembers Edgar's prophetic warning. Father is killed on the RMS Lusitania. After a year of mourning, Mother marries Tateh and moves to California with Edgar, the Little Girl, and Coalhouse Walker III. Tateh announces his intention to shoot a movie about a gang of mixed-race, mixed-religion children getting in and out of trouble together. Coalhouse and Sarah's ghosts, with the company, affirm their hope for the future ("Wheels of a Dream: Reprise").


Act I
  • Prologue: Ragtime- Company
  • Goodbye, My Love- Mother
  • Journey On- Tateh, Mother, Father
  • The Crime of the Century- Evelyn Nesbit, Company
  • What Kind of Woman- Mother
  • A Shtetl Iz Amereke- Company
  • Success- Tateh, J.P. Morgan, Harry Houdini, Company
  • His Name Was Coalhouse Walker- Coalhouse, Company
  • Gettin' Ready Rag- Coalhouse, Company
  • Henry Ford- Henry Ford, Coalhouse, Company
  • Nothing Like the City- Tateh, Little Girl, Mother, Little Boy
  • Your Daddy's Son- Sarah
  • The Courtship- Mother, Company
  • New Music- Mother, Father, Younger Brother, Coalhouse, Sarah
  • Wheels of a Dream- Coalhouse, Sarah
  • The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square- Emma Goldman, Younger Brother, Company
  • Gliding- Tateh
  • The Trashing of the Car- Orchestra
  • Justice- Coalhouse, Company
  • President- Sarah
  • Till We Reach That Day- Company
Act II
  • Entr'acte- Orchestra
  • Harry Houdini, Master Escapist- Harry Houdini, Little Boy
  • Coalhouse's Soliloquy- Coalhouse
  • Coalhouse Demands- Booker T. Washington, Company
  • What a Game- Father, Little Boy, Company
  • Fire in the City- Orchestra
  • Atlantic City- Company
  • Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.- Tateh
  • Our Children- Mother, Tateh
  • Harlem Nightclub- Orchestra
  • Sarah Brown Eyes- Coalhouse, Sarah
  • He Wanted to Say- Younger Brother, Emma Goldman, Company
  • Back to Before- Mother
  • Look What You've Done- Booker T Washington, Company
  • Make Them Hear You- Coalhouse
  • Epilogue: Ragtime/Wheels of a Dream (reprise)- Coalhouse, Sarah, Company


  1. ^ Mandelbaum, Ken. "The Insider." Broadway.com. Retrieved 8 January 2006.
  2. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Say Goodbye to Music: The Era of Ragtime Ends Jan. 10"playbill.com, January 10, 2010
  3. ^ [1] Fulton Opera House listing
  4. ^ "PCPA THEATERFEST PRESENTS THE TONY-WINNING MUSICAL RAGTIME", Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, Allan Hancock College
  5. ^ "Ragtime", kennedy-center.org
  6. ^ 3F "Kennedy Center Ragtime Is Aiming for Broadway"
  7. ^ "2004 Oliver Award Winners and Nominations (for 2003 season)", albemarle.com

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address