Three Calgary performing arts organizations—Arts Commons, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and Theatre Calgary—join forces to present the world premiere of Ragtime: A Concert Performance, a new concert adaptation of the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty-Terrence McNally musical.
Created for the Boston Pops Orchestra with the support of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, performances are June 10-11 at Jack Singer Concert Hall. Stafford Arima, artistic director of Theatre Calgary, directs with musical direction by James Moore.
The cast features Oliver Woodruff as Little Boy, JP Thibodeau as Father, Jessica Eckstadt as Mother, David Webb as Mother’s Younger Brother, Doug McKeag as Grandfather, Tenaj Williams as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Misha Maseka as Sarah, Steven Jackson Jr. as Booker T. Washington, Tim Howar as Tateh, Ella Wilson as Little Girl, Eric Wigston as Harry Houdini, Joel Schaefer as J.P. Morgan, Troy Goldthorp as Henry Ford, Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan as Emma Goldman, Katie McMillan as Evelyn Nesbit, Jessica Horkas as Sarah’s Friend, Michelle Rawlings as Houdini’s Mother, Billy Brown as Stanford White, EJ Candelaria as Harry K. Thaw, Doug McKeag as Admiral Peary, Joel Schaefer as Judge, Robyn Ord as Jury Foreman, Layne Labbe as Kathleen, Troy Goldthorp as Policeman, Rae Bernakevitch as Trolley Conductor, Eric Wigston as Conductor, Shaquille Pottinger as Coalhouse Follower, and Izuchi Otuka as Little Coalhouse.
The ensemble includes Grace Ajele, Rae Bernakevitch, Billy Brown, EJ Candelaria, Stanesha Deligence, Simone Denny, Layne Labbe, Jenhene Morgan, Robyn Ord, Christopher Parker, Shaquille Pottinger, and Michelle Rawlings.
Director Arima recently told Playbill, "Lynn, Stephen, and Terrence have written a masterpiece that resonates today with even more immediacy than it did in 1995 when I worked on the very first reading of the musical in Toronto. This new, abridged version that the authors worked on in the fall of 2019 takes this epic musical and trims it down to a compact two hours. The act break in this new version is at the end of Coalhouse and Sarah's powerhouse duet, 'Wheels of a Dream.' With some additional dialogue that Terrence wrote to assist in the narrative of this economical libretto, this concert adaptation packs a punch with its vibrant score, the brilliant orchestrations by Bill Brohn, and new orchestrations by Kim Scharnberg for this concert adaptation. To hear this score with 56 musicians and 29 singers from Calgary, Toronto, and the U.K. is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!"
The concerts also have sound design by Joshua D. Reid, lighting design by Scott Reid, projection design by Beth Kates, and costume coordination by Michelle Latta. The stage manager is Niesa Silzer, and the assistant stage manager is Emma Brager.
READING: Track-by-Track Breakdown: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Dissect Their Ragtime Score
Based on the classic American novel by E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime has a score by Ahrens and Flaherty (Once On This Island, Anastasia, Seussical) and a book by Terrence McNally (Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!).
Ragtime underwent a two-year gestation under the auspices of Garth Drabinsky, opening in Toronto in December 1996 and then in Los Angeles in June 1997 before arriving on Broadway. The production was directed by Tony winner Frank Galati with choreography by Graciela Daniele.
The musical mixes fictional characters and historical ones in telling the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Black man who buys a Model T Ford, setting off a chain of events that involve all levels of New York City society—along with magician Harry Houdini, industrialist Henry Ford, celebrity Evelyn Nesbit, Black leader Booker T. Washington, architect Sanford White, revolutionary Emma Goldman, Admiral Peary, a Latvian immigrant who becomes a movie director, and a not-so-quiet family in suburban New Rochelle, New York.
The original Broadway production featured a cast led by Audra McDonald as Sarah, Brian Stokes Mitchell as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Marin Mazzie as Mother, Mark Jacoby as Father, Steven Sutcliffe as Mother's Younger Brother, Peter Friedman as Tateh, Judy Kaye as Emma Goldman, Jim Corti as Harry Houdini, Lynette Perry as Evelyn Nesbit, Tommy Hollis as Booker T. Washington, and Larry Daggett as Henry Ford.
The musical was nominated for 14 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It took home four awards, including Best Book of a Musical (Terrence McNally), Best Original Score (Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Audra McDonald), and Best Orchestrations (William David Brohn).
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