I went into Ragtime knowing very little and came out feeling changed. The piece is so poignant and important and even though it is set in the early 1900s the story and messages in it are timeless.
Ragtime tells the story of three different families and groups; there are the African-Americans, whose story is one of racism and disrespect as they struggle through a post-slavery America but is set to the ragtime music of Coalhouse Walker Jr. and is also a story of love. Similarly in many ways is the story of the immigrants (mainly Eastern European) who have come to America searching for a new hope and new beginning only to find that it is not the land they have been promised; this story is told heartbreakingly by a father and his daughter. Finally there is the story of the upper-class WASPs and how their position is developing in this ever-changing America and how they will fit into it. These stories continually overlap and intertwine as well as those of a number of historical figures, including Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Emma Goldman and Henry Ford.
The story is intricate but the message is not – we are all one people and need to look out for and stand up for one another. Perhaps the striking similarities to today is what make this piece so poignant and significant. We have not changed as much as we would like to think and there are still lessons to learn. We must have compassion to one another and make a stand if we truly want the world to change.
The story is brought to life by some incredible talent; Anita Louise Combe as Mother was truly outstanding and brought such power and emotion to the show especially in What Kind of Women and Back to Before. Ako Mitchell was phenomenal as Coalhouse Walker Jr. bringing such raw emotion to the role, as did Jenifer Saayeng as Sarah. Gary Tushaw was also fantastic as Tateh again bringing some real emotion to the role and was absolutely heart breaking in parts. Jonathon Stewart as Younger Brother also deserves a mention as I loved his character and how his story arc went down an unexpected route. But it was Bernadette Bangura who really stole the show for me at the end of Act One with her vocals in Till We Reach That Day, it was utterly unexpected and brought a tear to my eye.
The music throughout is a great balance of the emotional numbers and the more fun and upbeat ones, many of which are still stuck in my head. The very fist number Ragtime was perhaps my favourite, showing from the very beginning that what I was watching was something really special.
I can’t recommend Ragtime enough and it is closing on Saturday (10/12/2016) so if you have the chance you should most definitely get down to the Charing Cross Theatre to see it. It is superb through and through and you will leave with a full heart, a broadened perspective and a huge smile on your face and maybe one or two tears in your eyes.
Tickets available here: http://www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/ragtime
Photo at top not mine, credit goes to Charing Cross Theatre.