Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ragtime (The SOB Review)

Ragtime (The SOB Review) - Neil Simon Theatre, New York City, New York

**1/2 (out of ****)

Few musicals have captured the shifting American landscape inherently contained at the dawn of the 20th Century as powerfully as Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' underappreciated heartfelt musical Ragtime.

In Marcia Milgrom Dodge's genuinely moving new revival, the confluence of a trio of family stories remains. There's the wealthy uppercrust white brood that's long since achieved the American dream. There's the Jewish immigrants in search of a better life. And at the heart of the original Broadway mounting a decade ago was a black couple whose hopes and aspirations are challenged by bigotry.

Unfortunately in this Ragtime, its center has dramatically shifted from an equally-balanced story of all three, to one in which the white mother (Christiane Noll) unnecessarily assumes its overriding focus. It's hard to fault Noll, who imbues her mother with grace, dignity and substance.

But in the original, it was Coalhouse Walker's tragic tale that moved me beyond words. Here, it's nowhere near as affecting, despite Quentin Earl Darrington's valiant efforts. He's completely upstaged by Bobby Steggert's brilliant performance as Noll's brother, who becomes a champion for racial equality.

Ironically as a result, Ragtime loses its opportunity to demonstrate the even-handed approach to race relations Terrance McNally's book espouses.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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