Ragtime is a wonderful Broadway
musical that is practically a history lesson. Fictional characters and
characters who actually lived explain themselves through third person at
the very beginning. The fictional characters portray a typical family in
the early 1900's in New York. In New Rochelle, New York, lived a family:
Mother, Father, Little Boy, Mother's Younger Brother, and Grandfather.
This was the time of many immigrants coming to America and Booker T. Washington
breaking through to a black America. While Father is off on an expedition
things happen that change everything.
A man by the name of Coalhouse Walker, Jr., and his girlfriend, Sarah, step into the picture. Sarah gave birth to a little boy and is hiding out in the family's attic.
Meanwhile an immigrant man and his daughter arrive in America and face the prejudice and exploitation by people such as J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford. Tateh discovers his true profession: being in the movie making business. He meets Mother and their children play on the beach while they grow fond of each other.
Evelyn Nesbitt, whom Mother's Younger Brother loved, was in the middle of the crime of the century. She was thought to be the most beautiful woman in America. Her husband, Harry K. Thaw, (millionaire) who was a violent man finds out about her lover Stanford White (the famous architect). While dining on the roof of Madison Square Garden Thaw kills White.
Coalhouse finally encourages Sarah to come with him along with their child in his beloved Model T, but then a fireman named Willy Conklin ruins his car. Sarah goes to the president. While trying to get his attention a man "mistakes" her for having a gun. Immediately she is beaten and killed. Coalhouse goes crazy over his fiancée's death. Leaving the baby in Mother's care he holds the Morgan Library captive with Mother's Younger Brother who has finally found something in which to believe.
Harry is put on trial and his mother pays Evelyn to side with her violent husband. Harry is found not guilty. After the incident Evelyn became the biggest attraction in vaudeville since Tom Thumb. Mother's Younger Brother met her and was heartbroken the way she didn't care about him. He was just another fan to her, but to him she was his love. Evelyn Nesbitt would loose her looks and fall into obscurity.
Father has come back and does not approve of the baby's presence. They decide to have an extended vacation to Atlantic City where they can keep the baby. Before then Father assures Coalhouse no one will shoot him. As he comes out with his hands raised he is shot many times until dead.
Father is killed on the Lusitania and a year later Tateh and Mother are married. They are family now. Little Coalhouse then runs out on stage while the audience is crying like babies.
Ragtime was awarded four Tony Awards including Best Performance by a Featured Actress (Sarah-Audra McDonald), Best Book (Terrance McNally), Best Score (Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty), and Best Orchestrations (William David Brohn). It is now playing at the Ford Theater on 43rd St. which opened in 1997 with this musical. The original cast was: Brian Stokes Mitchell (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Peter Friedman (Tateh), Marin Mazzie (Mother), Audra McDonald (Sarah), Mark Jacoby (Father), and the Little Boy and Little Girl were played by Alex Strange and Lea Michele. If you will be in New York anytime soon you have to see Ragtime. Being very entertaining it is so historical, too.
The era of Ragtime had run out as if history was no more than a tune on a player piano, but we did not know then, then.
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