'Ragtime' : A Show Needed Now More Than Ever

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Founder

Last night I had the chance to see a local theatre production of Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty's iconic classic, Ragtime. This show is near and dear to my heart. I was fortunate enough to see the original production months after it had opened. I was 15 years old and while I loved the sweeping, epic score and outstanding performances, I would be lying if I said the messages within the text resonated with me. However seeing it last night, it was very clear how important this musical is and how much of the themes are ever present today. 

Before I go any further, let me just say that if you're in the Stamford, CT area, I hope you got a chance to see the Curtain Call production of Ragtime. I would encourage you to go see it, but I hear this upcoming closing weekend is completely sold out. Talk about a powerhouse company, it features one of the finest ensembles I've seen on a local stage in years. The story is moving and powerful enough but it's only amplified by the talents of this cast. So my congrats to everyone involved! 

But I must praise the work of director George H. Croom. Mr. Croom's staging highlights the messages of the piece without becoming heavy handed, which allows them to be the most impactful. It's impossible not to think of the race issues and xenophobia that dominate today's headlines. And while the original material only skims the surface of these issues, Mr. Croom's direction allows the actors to go deeper and give these themes the attention they deserve. 

When Coalhouse Walker Jr. is walking out of the library with his hands raised, it's impossible not to think of Terence Crutcher, who was shot to death by a Tulsa police officer while he was doing the same. Watching the treatment of Tateh and his fellow immigrants enter this country, it's hard to not think of the atrocious commentary this election has produced towards those coming here in search of a better or safer life. 

Since we all know that the arts can help to educate, stir discussion and raise awareness, it is my hope that Ragtime is going to be performed now more than ever. I've always felt that while hate is certainly dangerous, ignorance can be just as damaging. Shows like Ragtime, Parade and Hairspray can help to enlighten and at the same time, entertain. 

So I hope that if your theatre company has the means, you'll consider performing pieces like these. There was a lot of love inside the Kweskin Theatre last night but also a lot of healthy discussion about these issues. Lord knows we could use more of that right now. 

Photo: Pictured: Minuette Griffin as Sarah and Kevin Thompson as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Credit: Deb Failla