Ragtime is a colorful and charming musical outlining the social tensions of the budding 19th century America. Full of big glitzy performances and huge group dance numbers, CSUN’s talent really shines in this broadway classic.
The story follows three main groups in turn-of-the-century New York: affluent whites, African-Americans and immigrants. These three groups each have their own representatives that emerge during the show: Mother (Skye Privat), Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Robert Collins) and Tateh (John Haukoos), respectively.
The trio, with astounding voices, bring life and depth to their characters. Privat’s Mother struggles to find her independence and strength in a man’s world, while Collins’s reformed bad-boy-musician Coalhouse is sure to melt everyone’s heart. And let’s not forget Haukoos’ Tateh, who maintains a consistently accurate Eastern european accent, all while singing and dancing around with his adorable daughter, who he’s just trying to provide a better life for.
The entire supporting cast is phenomenal. Each character is struggling with the changing times, trying to find their place in the emerging cultures. Mother’s Younger Brother (Jared Tkocz) joins the radical movements, desperate to find something to care about. He’s pulled into the social craze by anarchist Emma Goldman (Savanna Chute) who loudly and proudly campaigns for everyone’s civil rights.
Coalhouse’s lost love, Sarah (Nia Bernstine), brings in a heartbreaking love story, and Bernstine’s voice mixes with Collins’s to form the perfect amount of soul during their duets that delivers goosebumps every time. This is best exemplified in their performance of “Wheels of a Dream” and “Sarah Brown Eyes.”
Father (Steven Brogan) is just trying to keep his family together during the times of turmoil, unsure of how to react to the new people in his once so simple world. A personal favorite was Grandfather (played expertly by Bill Taylor) whose sole purpose was to stroll through a scene, make a cranky one liner, and nonchalantly stroll back off stage as the crowd howled.
Harry Houdini (Hunter Paris) makes an appearance, serving as a symbol of hope for the immigrants who came to America in search of a better life, especially to Tateh. There’s also Evelyn Nesbit (Shelby Wane), a vaudeville singer with a trademark high-pitched “Weee!” and whose dramatic personal life reminds one of a 20th century Kim Kardashian.
The cast is huge, with most of the ensemble performing double duty throughout the musical. Many of them ran through impressively quick costume changes, going from street urchins, to lawyers or police officers, and never missing a beat. Every scene flowed smoothly and expertly.
The entire show is rounded out well by an impressively versatile, multi-level set, accurate time-period costumes and a live orchestra.
Ragtime is sure to provide an entertaining and dramatic evening full of music and heart that anyone will enjoy.
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