by Lorie Lewis Ham
This past weekend Ragtime The Musical opened on stage in Fresno and my daughter and I had the chance to attend. I believe this is the Valley premiere of this wonderful musical.
Ragtime isn’t a light and fluffy type of show, but a more serious, thought provoking one. Set in the early 20th century the story revolves around three different groups of people—an upper class suburban white family, African Americans, and Eastern European immigrants just arriving in America. Through the eyes of these groups, we see many different sides to living in America including the horrible discrimination that both the African Americans and immigrants faced, and also of the opportunity in America for success.
In Ragtime, the stories of these characters intertwine to present a wonderful, if at times heart-breaking, story based on a novel by E.L. Doctorow, that I now intend to read. A fun extra is the inclusion of several real historical figures that cross their paths such as Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington and Evelyn Nesbit. Ragtime music is brought into the story by an African American pianist named Coalhouse Walker. As to the rest of the story, I’m going to leave that for you to discover when you see it.
I have not yet been disappointed by a StageWorks Fresno production. The professional quality of theatre that this young company brings to the Valley is top notch. The performers in Ragtime were wonderful and included those I am familiar with, and many I have never seen perform before such as Camille Gaston as Sarah, Harrison Mills as Coalhouse and Sara Price as Mother—all with beautiful voices. Familiar faces included, Ben McNamara, who did a fantastic job as Mother’s Younger Brother, as well as Kelly Hall as Evelyn Nesbit and Ashley Taylor.
I honestly wish I had room to mention everyone here—the acting, the music, the orchestra, the voices, everything was great. The music and lyrics of Ragtime, written by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, are powerful, beautiful and fun. And, for me it’s such an extra bonus when there’s a great, deep, moving storyline as well. I cannot recommend this show enough.
This was my 18 year old daughter’s first time seeing a StageWorks Fresno show and she loved it, and had I brought my 16 year old son I think he’d have enjoyed it too even though he’s not into musical theatre. Ragtime is the kind of show you can bring the family too even if your tweens and teens aren’t into theatre because the history intertwined within it and the inspiring, sad and realistic plotlines make this more than just a fun show with great music. It’s a show that reminds you of America’s rich and varied history—both good and bad.
So before it sells out, make sure to get your tickets for Ragtime—you will not want to miss it. Tickets can be purchased on StageWorks website.
Learn more about StageWorks in a recent KRL article.
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