Ragtime - one of the biggest and most satisfying productions Iíve seen there in years.

Published: Friday, April 11, 2014 By: Chip DeFaa Source: TheatreScene.net

With a cast of 40, the production of "Ragtime" currently playing at the Westchester Broadway dinner theater, is the biggest I've ever seen at that theater. And it is one of the most satisfying productions I've seen there. From the opening number--one of the best opening numbers of any Broadway of the last 30 years--to the close, there is much to appreciate. And Fatye, in the lead, is giving a breakout performance. I've seen him in other shows. He was fine in "Big River," was wasted in "In the Heights." But he really gets to show what he is capable of here, portraying a strong--yet curiously vulnerable, and wholly sympathetic--Coalhouse Walker Jr. Not all cast members are on his level. But the ensemble singing is solid, the staging is fluid. And oh! that superb Flaherty & Ahrens score.... This show is rarely revived because it requires a very large cast, which is costly. But I enjoyed this production a lot. If my schedule permitted, I'd go see it again before it closes on May 4th. I wrote more about this production in my most recent column for TheaterScene -- * * *see below...

Cast of Ragtime

Ragtime, with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, is one of the best musicals of the last 30 years. The production of Ragtime, directed by John Fanelli, that is now running (through May 4th) at the Westchester Broadway dinner theater, is one of the biggest and most satisfying productions I’ve seen there in years. There is an epic grandeur to this musical. And I like this production a lot. I’d go see it again, if I could.

Coalhouse & Sarah

The star–and he ought to be billed as such, because he is the heart and soul of this production and does an excellent job, although the theater for some reason is simply listing cast members alphabetically–is the single named actor known as Fatye, playing Coalhouse Walker Jr. I’ve enjoyed his work in such past productions at the theater as Big River and In the Heights, but I gained a new–and much greater--appreciation for him here. Fatye sings well, and acts the role with an endearing mix of vulnerability and strength. He makes the character very sympathetic. He gives a memorable performance. And there is a nice chemistry between him and his leading lady, Brittney Johnson. Most cast members in this production do a good job. Todd Ritch, whom I thought was miscast as the Artful Dodger when this theater presented Oliver a while back, is right on the money as Younger Brother in this production; he’s excellent. Nadine Zahr is a very likeable Emma Goldman. Jimmy Tate, who moves so well, gets a chance to make the most of his time onstage; it’s always a treat to see him, and I wish there were more for him to do. (There will be other shows.) The big ensemble numbers in this complex musical are staged well, and sung well. Ragtime boasts one of the greatest of opening musical numbers, and the large ensemble carries it off very well.


Mother & Tateh

The only actor who really disappointed me, at the opening-night performance, was the young actor playing the role of the Little Boy, who recited lines too mechanically, and seemed awkward on stage. I wish more care had been taken in casting that small but vital role; the Little Boy is the very first character we hear from in this play--and in any production, first impressions count for a lot. The first actor we hear speaking in any show sets a tone. The original Broadway production of Ragtime featured an excellent young actor in the role--whom I remember the producer berating so harshly at the recording session for the cast album, I was alarmed; no young actor should ever be treated so badly; the boy soon quit the business and is today a bartender. (Incidentally, the role of the Little Girl in the original Broadway production was played by young Lea Michelle, who is well-known today for her work on television’s “Glee” and hopes to star in a proposed Broadway revival of Funny Girl.)

This production of Ragtime at Westchester Broadway is warmly recommended, and prices are reasonable–extremely so, considering what you get for the money. Go, if you can! (I didn’t much care for the previous show at Westchester Broadway–but this production is a winner.)