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A CurtainUp London Review
Robert McWhir and Andrew Keates have attracted a cast with West End leading role experience and the chorus features some with great promise who are yet to get their first big break. The result is a consummately professional show of this energetic musical which has everything: a meaningful plot with social commentary, a picture of the cross section of the demographic who make up the United States in the 1900s, choreography, big musical numbers, love ballads and the songs I love most, the Scott Joplin like rags.
The scene changes are managed by an intricate set of sliding cut out scenes in relief, manipulated with tied ropes as if one of those popular cardboard theatres played with in Victorian times. These silhouetted outlines resonate with Tateh (John Barr)’s occupation on first arriving in America making silhouette portraits with black paper, a pair of scissors and skill. The lovely costumes are in period and the white lace parasols twirl in the opening numbers. The crowded stage gives the buzz and feel of the city and works in this context.
There is outstanding singing from Mother (Louisa Lydell), Tateh (John Barr) Sarah (Rosalind James, Eponine in the Barbican’s 25th anniversary show of Les Miserables and who played Sarah in Ragtime in 2003) and I loved the deep baritone register of Kurt Kansley as the hero Coalhouse. Raymond Coker has great presence at Booker T Washington and I liked Craig Rhys-Barlow’s interesting portrayal of Houdini. Tateh and Mother’s romantic duet "Our Children " is evocative. Both Mother and her Little Brother (David McMullan) make interesting, unconventional choices for their future.
If I can heap any more superlatives on this outstanding production they would be for the band under musical director George Dye whose energetic piano playing brings the rags to life. "The Gettin’ Ready Rag" has the black cast in the most wonderful side kicking choreography led by mamma and gospel singer Emmah Beckford. Well known historical characters like "the Girl on the Swing" Evelyn Nesbitt (Hollie O’Donoghue involved in "The Crime of the Century", JP Morgan (Mitchell Mullan), Henry Ford (Leo Miles) and Emma Goldman (Judith Paris) flesh out the sense of historical period and politics.
Ragtime is a big Broadway musical in Clapham. At £18 it is the best and biggest value show in London. Don’t miss it!
Check out Elyse Sommer’s review in New York for the complete song list and many more details about this wonderful musical here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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