Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
What we have in Ragtime is a roaring spectacle that displays all the promise of America in the early 20th century. Even more clearly, the story reveals the dark side of the immigrant struggle and the endemic, insidious racism. The dual nature of the American Dream persists of course in our age. Some things don't change over a century, especially racism. Racist behavior may be less overt in the 21st century, but there is a stubborn sameness in its ugly heart.
Across the crowds and the raucous and lively street activity displayed on stage, Ragtime weaves together three distinct stories that intersect at crucial moments. There's the story of an upper middle class family in New Rochelle, New York, with the central characters of Mother (Amy Poland) and Father (Michael Matthew Finnegan). We also see the story of two immigrants, Tateh (Bill Williams) and his daughter (Sage Bell). And we have the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Tychiko Cox) and his lover Sarah (Sina Soul).
The stories of these struggling characters are persistently dire. There seems no relief from calamity. The absolute exuberance of the dancing crowds is quite a contrast to the downbeat series of events the characters suffer through, particularly Coalhouse and Sarah. I came away with mixed feelings about the blend of despair with the joyful full-throated singing, but I had no mixed feelings about the excellence of the production and the performances. Producer Myra Cochnar and director Art Tedesco have excelled in putting together a big, big show.
Hats off also to the production team that includes Louis Giannini as associate producer and co-choreographer with Courtney Giannini, and musical director Darby Fegan, who also conducts the orchestra. Praise also to production designer Dahl Delu, lighting designer Kevin Benjamin, sound designer Simon Welter, properties designer Carrie Tafoya Hess, and costume designer Ashley Miller.
Tedesco makes sure the dancing, singing, and acting is solid throughout, delivered well by the entire ensemble. Individual performances are a bit overwhelmed by size of the cast and the lush production, but there are standouts, including Cox as Coalhouse and Soul as Sarah. They manage to convey the complexity of their relationship amid the liveliness. Likewise with Williams as Tateh and Bell as the daughter. They're able to tell their tender story in the quiet corners of the streets.
Kudos to Landmark for putting on such an ambitious production.
Ragtime, through March 25, 2018, at Landmark Musicals, in Rodey Theatre at the UNM Fine Arts Complex, Albuquerque NM. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. There will also be special matinee performance on Saturday, March 17 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $22, $24, and $26, with a $2 discount for students and seniors. You can buy tickets online at unmtickets.com, or by calling 505-925-5858 or 877-664-8661.