As my guest and I were walking out of the performance of “Ragtime” presented by Music Theater Works at the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts In Skokie (9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL 60076) through November 7, 2021, we commented to one another that this was Broadway quality. It is a must see performance, and from my observation flawless.
This is the third production of the 2021 Season. It is the first Music Theater Works show that I have seen in this location. What a difference a venue makes. It felt as though this company had come into its own given a stage of size and an audience seated with great sight lines. This is a show with high and lows, poignantly beautiful, romantic and hopeful, vicious and tragic, humorous with wonderful contrasts and pacing. The show was overflowing with talent: the voices, the music and orchestra, the choreography and dancing, the costumes, staging, sound, sets and direction.
Music Theater Works brings this 13-time Tony Award-nominated musical with its rich, award-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens – the lyricist and composer duo behind “Once on This Island ” and “Seussical” to its stage. Ragtime, based on the E. L. Doctorow, tells the unforgettable story of an upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a young, daring Harlem musician living during the early years of the 20th century. Showcasing the great struggle that accompanies the American Dream and featuring some of the most well-known figures of the time, Ragtime tells the tale of three different individuals who desire a brighter future but must unite to achieve their goals.
Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. With its extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. This musical does a remarkable job of being true to the book and enhancing the story.
The three groups on which the story hinges are clearly defined in the first number: the wealthy white inhabitants of New Rochelle, New York, defined by their white clothing, the black population defined by their vibrant clothing and the immigrants, primarily Jews in subdued colors with a rumpled look. This work is very operatic with its heightened drama and gorgeous songs, including beautiful duets.
Though the entire cast is to be credited, I want to give a shout out to Hogan Porter as the little boy who spoke clearly and wisely and to Curtis Bannister as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. whose emotional output reached my heart. A few words at the end caught my attention and are reflective of our present day. Korey White as Booker T. Washington says something about there being problems other than those of Black and White, Kelly Britt as mother speaks to not being able to return to what was and Dan Gold as Tateh makes a plea for a world that is enriched by peoples of all colors, faiths and ethnicities.
Although this musical runs over two hours, it was mesmerizing, and for me it could have gone on and on.
Kudos to the cast, productions team and all who played a part in this wonderful show.
● Book by Terrence McNally
● Music by Stephen Flaherty
● Directed by Stacey Flaster
● Choreography by Ariel Etana Triunfo
● Music Directed and Conducted by Roger Bingaman
● Dan Gold (as Tateh)
● Kelly Britt (as Mother)
● Lydia Burke (as Sarah)
● Brian Hupp (as Father)
● Bob Sanders (as Grandfather and Judge)
● Korey White (as Booker T. Washington)
● Curtis Bannister (as Coalhouse Walker Jr.)
● Ryan Dooley (as Mother’s Younger Brother)
● Dramaturg (Nathan Lamp)
● Tech Director (Will Hughes)
● Dialect Coach (Kathy Logelin)
● Props Designer (Ellen Markus)
● Set Designer (Sotirios Livaditis)
● Production Manager (Bob Silton)
● Lighting Designer (Andrew Myers)
● Fight Choreographer (Nick Sandys)
● Stage Manager (Sean Michael Mohler)
● Costume Designer (Rachel Sypniewski)
● Assistant Stage Manager (Parker Bailey)
● Producing Artistic Director (Kyle A. Dougan)
● Hair And Make-Up Co-Designer (Alice Salazar)
● Hair And Make-Up Co-Designer (Charlene Sellers)
Photo Credit: Brett Beiner
Be sure to check the Future performances