By Chris Heide
Ragtime is exactly the revival that America needs right now. It is a political relevant, deeply emotional and aggressively woke body of work.
Set in the early 1900’s, Ragtime tells the story of three families- one white, one African American and one comprised of European immigrants. The story line features several real historical figures, including Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, JP Morgan, Harry Houdini, Emma Goldman and Evelyn Nesbit. While the story is set nearly 100 years ago, the themes of Ragtime ir eerily relevant.
The characters deal with classism, fame, racism, poverty, xenophobia and injustice- all of which are hallmarks of Trump’s America. Is it possible for art to push for a greater change in societal inequities? Ragtime proves that art can and should always act as that agent of critique and change.
The cast is stellar (I don’t think I’ve been a more appropriately and expertly cast production). Among the many talented actors and actresses, Kendra Kassebaum (Mother), Douglas Lyons (Colehouse Walker Jr.) and Danyel Fulton (Sarah) were the cream of the crop. Not only did all three process goosebump inducing vocal abilities, but they infused every single scene with heart wrenching emotion.
Like many other well executed musicals, the standout performance of the night occurred at the end of the first act. “Till We Reach That Day” is a gospel infused power ballad that, again, is extremely politically and culturally relevant. It is no wonder that the original Broadway iteration of Ragtime was a critical and commercial hit.
The 5th Avenue Theatre is at its very best when it chooses to produce a body of work as complex and appropriate as Ragtime.