REVIEW: Opening Night of Ragtime

Review by Jiawen Chen and Jacki Zhang

The SMUS Senior School musical Ragtime transports the audience back to 1906 in a story revolving around three communities in New York state, America: the upper-class white family living comfortably in New Rochelle, the black community of Harlem, and the new immigrants of the Lower East Side in New York City.

Ragtime is the journey of fictional characters against a backdrop of real historical events and people, including the “crime of the century” shooting of Stanford White, his ex-lover Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, and anarchist Emma Goldman. Throughout the musical, the characters learn to come together and care for each other despite their differences and the segregationist attitudes of the early 1900s.

Opening night, nerves skyrocketed with the presence of a live audience but the cast pushed through and put on a great show.

Sierra Dunbar shines as a docile yet incredibly kindhearted Mother. Her character radiated with that warm, see-past-the-surface maternal love throughout the entire show. Alongside her is Father, played by Ethan Ko, whose curt and direct manner convinces the audience that his character is a white male of the time, unwilling to see social change. The show is narrated by their son Edgar, played by Jonah Wilmott. Sasha Pryce-Baff put on a hint of an accent to play Tateh, a Latvian Jewish immigrant who made a rags to riches life for himself and his motherless daughter in America.

The characters of Evelyn Nesbit, Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah were double casted. Opening night saw Maia Watson bring a lively and wonderfully sassy disposition to Evelyn. David Allens and Elsie Ojum were a great pair as Coalhouse and Sarah. David’s onstage piano playing was convincing, but it was his powerful voice ringing melodic and clear above the music of the orchestra that truly brought Coalhouse and his famous “ragtime” music to life. Macy Weymar, Christian Okiring, and Leah Sparkman will be making their debut as Evelyn, Coalhouse, and Sarah tonight.

The hours the cast, crew, and orchestra have spent since October shone through in every aspect of the show. The harmonies and chorus parts were absolutely stunning, especially at the end of both acts. The choreography in the prologue and epilogue added a lovely extra layer of depth to the overall message of the musical, and was well-polished throughout. The general attention to detail was impressive. The costumes looked fabulous and the props were impressively detailed, for example: the newspapers had text, headlines and a mugshot of the criminal. The set, with its height and spiraling staircases, as well as a witness car being assembled and driven around onstage were definite highlights.

For those of you who have yet to see the musical, tickets are still available for Friday and Saturday night, as well as the Saturday matinee. Come hear our student orchestra tackle the magnificent, Tony-winning score. Let your heart be warmed by a story about love and revenge, acceptance and bigotry, and that golden “American Dream”, from the point of views of those who live it, who wish to live it, and those who go to America chasing it.

Check out hundreds of photos from Ragtime: The Musical at the SMUS Photo Gallery. Photos from Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal and Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal are available now.

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Jacki and Jiawen are Senior School students at St. Michaels University School and are co-editors of The Jag student newspaper.

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