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 Post subject: Ragtime
PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2003 5:13 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
A dance to the music of ragtime
By Benedict Nightingale for The Times


THEY’VE ditched plenty that made the musical of E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime such a lavish success on Broadway: the stadium in which tiers of singing, spitting fans appeared at the mere mention of baseball, the vast grilles that kept immigrants trapped on Ellis Island, J. P. Morgan’s luxuriant library, a real car for Coalhouse Walker, a real engine for his fire-service foes, much more.

Never mind. Terrence McNally and Stephen Flaherty’s show exercises more than sufficient grip on a stage with no more decor than grubby mirrors at the back, a steel bridge above, and plain chairs doubling as cars and engines. Indeed, last night the piece seemed timely as well as arresting. As I drove home, hearing on the radio that I should stockpile food and water, one of its central topics didn’t feel fictional at all.

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 Post subject: Re: Ragtime
PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2003 6:36 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Triumph of passion over worthiness
Charles Spencer for The Times reviews Ragtime at Piccadilly Theatre.



This is a terrible time to be opening a big, bold, worryingly humour-free American musical.

In days of crisis, theatregoers either stay at home or seek out unashamedly escapist fare. Ragtime, in contrast, is dark, tragic and desperately in earnest. Worse still, when insufferably smug bien-pensants regard Bush's America as every bit as evil as Saddam's Iraq, and appeasement is suddenly a cardinal virtue, this is a show that celebrates the robust values of the land of the free.

Yet Ragtime deserves to succeed. Yes, it's po-faced, yes, it's excessively politicaly correct, yes, it often lacks the fleetness and wit of the music it celebrates. But this is a show blessed with real heart, great songs and superb performances. Ragtime may be hard work at times, but it richly repays the effort.

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 Post subject: Re: Ragtime
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2003 4:43 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
One angry man
It was a time of political, cultural and social upheaval. And that's what makes the ragtime era perfect material for a musical, says Stafford Arima for The Guardian.

Plays, the thinking goes, are serious. Musicals are frivolous, frothy, fun. But there is much more to the musical than mere entertainment. The 20th century brought a whole catalogue of musicals that shook up the genre by bringing real life to the stage. In 1927, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat premiered; the first musical to tackle racial prejudice, it was a musical play, rather than a musical comedy. Thirty years later, West Side Story was another serious hit.

You can trace this line through John Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret (set in pre-Nazi Germany) and Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (a dark musical about a murderous barber addicted to revenge) all the way to Rent. Jonathan Larson's 1996 rock musical, based on La Bohème, dealt with a group of bohemians living in New York's East Village. It fearlessly tackled homelessness and Aids - and it took Broadway by storm.

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 Post subject: Re: Ragtime
PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2003 1:53 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Ragtime
By Susannah Clapp for The Observer

For all its exuberance, Simply Heavenly conveys in any one song more about what it's like to struggle in America than Ragtime does in an entire evening. It's not that this adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel has failed to garner talent: Stephen Flaherty's score is varied, often vivid; Maria Friedman is in full, strong voice. And Stafford Arima's small-scale, austerely designed production, a pocket version of the immensely lavish Broadway show, begins with real freshness. But the book (Terrence McNally) and lyrics (Lynn Ahrens) dam the flow: they are rigid with piety and bad rhymes. And there's no such thing as a rigid rag.

Doctorow's achievement was to give his novel, which mingled imaginary American families with real historical figures such as Houdini and the anarchist Emma Goldman, both a panoramic sweep and the rhythm of ragtime.

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 Post subject: Re: Ragtime
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2003 2:59 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Ragtime
By John Thaxter for The Stage


EL Doctorow's epic novel intertwined tales of immigrants starving on Lower East Side and their middle-class counterparts in New Rochelle with that of Coalhouse Walker, an angry Harlem piano player fighting against racism and injustice, their stories set against a vivid, real-life portrait of America in political turmoil in the early years of the 20th century.

It flopped as a film but thanks to Terrence McNally's book and Stephen Flaherty's tuneful, syncopated score brilliantly exploiting a Scott Joplin piano rag, it became a spectacular triumph on Broadway. Five years on, the show at last reaches the West End. Or rather book, score and Lynn Ahren's storytelling lyrics come to London but in a starkly staged version inspired by last October's Cardiff concert premiere.

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 Post subject: Re: Ragtime
PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2003 3:30 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
It just ain't got that swing...
By Kate Bassett for The Independent

Not so much Ragtime as money for old rope. An orchestra, playing everything from piccolo to banjo to double bass, hardly strikes a sincere note all evening in the West End's latest big US import. How on earth did this musical get nominated for 13 Tony Awards on Broadway? Well, I suppose some might be impressed by the self-proclaimed "epic" sweep of EL Doctorow's novel, adapted by Terrence McNally. A saga about turn-of-the-20th-century America, it pointedly embraces the major issue of race relations and other revolutionary movements of that epoch.

Three families from ethnically diverse communities become interconnected. A rich WASP industrialist's wife finds a black baby abandoned in her garden and saves the infant and its mother from the harsh clutches of the law.

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 Post subject: Re: Ragtime
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 10:57 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Rags to riches
With Broadway mainstay Ragtime finally making its long-awaited London debut at the Piccadilly Theatre, Nick Smurthwaite finds out what took its creators so long for The Stage

Eight years ago the New York songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty won an Olivier award for Once on This Island. It put them on the musical map in London and we all eagerly awaited the arrival of their next show - an adaptation of EL Doctorow's epic slice of American social history, Ragtime, which ran for two years in New York.

We waited - and waited. Five years to be precise. It was all set to go in 1998, with Maria Friedman and Dave Willetts, until the production company Livent went bankrupt and plans for a London transfer were put on hold.

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