‘Ragtime’, A Time Worth Exploring

The musical “Ragtime” opened at the Marriott Theater in nearby Lincolnshire, IL recently, and one of my friends found it very disappointing.

“It was three hours long and I was just plain bored,”she said. “I thought it would be about Jazz in America, but it was stories about a bunch of people at the turn of the century and I lost track of who was who, and it was all song with no dialog, which confused me” she complained.

Paraphrasing Pogo, she might have looked into a mirror and seen her enemy.

This play was a huge success on Broadway, where it captured rave reviews and several Tony Awards. It’s based on “Ragtime” the widely acclaimed historical novel by E.L.Doctorow that was also a successful film starring James Cagney, among other famous stars.

I recently read this remarkable work about three separate families, of different income levels, including immigrants new to America, during the period between 1902 and 1912. Aside from being exquisitely written, it casts light on the people living in Brooklyn and New York at the time, as well as their circumstances, feelings and depth of character. I can think of no better vehicle for transition to the musical stage.

Ah, but my friend who made the comment also made a major error for any theater goer: NEVER ENTER THE DOORS UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE HOMEWORK ABOUT THE PRODUCTION YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE.

As many of us learned at “Hamilton,” you may completely miss what’s going on if you haven’t educated yourself beforehand.

Before you buy the tickets, go to the library or the Internet and find out what the production is about, what the story line and the playwright’s intention are, as well as who the characters really are and what parts of society they represent.

If it’s making its premier,with no history to research, you WILL have to put some faith in the theater, its past work, and the artistic director’s taste. But even in those cases, the theater usually can provide a brief summary of the play and something about it’s author if you ask.

I’m going to buy a ticket to this one.
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