Highly Recommended***** Often I am asked, “How can you see the same show year after year and still find it enjoyable?”. The answer is an easy one! While it is the same show, it is different. The title is the same, the script is the same ( for the most part) , but it is the total production that I am there to see and each director puts something of themself in the total production and of course a different set and a different cast all make for what we call a theatrical experience that is different from the previous one, meaning, for all intents and purposes, we are viewing a new show, not one we have seen before.
Such is the case with the new production of “Ragtime The Musical” as staged by Stacey Flaster ( who also does the Choreography) now on stage at the prairie Lakes Theatre in DesPlaines as part of the 2013/2014 season of Big Noise Theatre Company. Many of us have watched Flaster grow up in the Chicago area theater and re-visualize many old and true productions into something with just a little more flair or feeling. In this production, one of which I have witnessed many productions of, there were some new feelings felt by myself as well as those around me. I know that her heart and soul went into the production that Big Noise had no fear of undertaking ( well, maybe they had just a little fear), but under her guidance and her able production staff, we have one of the best renditions of “ragtime the Musical” to his a Chicago area stage.
With a book by Terrence McNally and music by Stephen Flaherty, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, this coming of age story ( not the usual coming of age, but in fact, our country’s coming of age) based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, we witness to the blending of lives of the upper class society of New Rochelle, New York, the Negroes of Harlem, and the Russian Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island at a time where The United States was making changes . This is a huge cast and amazingly talented with voices that one would expect to find in one of the larger theaters in the city ( or perhaps in one of our major suburban houses such as Drury Lane, Marriott or even The Paramount is Aurora.Big Noise makes a large sound with the talented cast they have put on their stage.
The story revolves around the well to do New Rochelle family, Mother ( the lovely Amanda Horvath who has an amazing range), Father( Kevin T. Kirkpatrick), their Little Boy ( an adorable Daniel Pass) and Mother’s younger brother ( deftly handled by Ryan Dooley. They encounter a baby left in the garden, a negro baby and take in the mother and child to protect them from prison. The mother Sarah ( stunningly played by Sydney Charles) is fearful of the father, Coalhouse Walker, Jr ( an amazing performance by David Simmons) who is part of the new music hitting the country, Ragtime and lives a different lifestyle. Many years have passed and yet, some of the contradictions that existed back then are still in our lives today. There are still people filled with hate and jealousy, but yet there are also people who are caring and considerate as well as loving. As the years go by, many changes do take place, but what we see in this story ( and I will not divulge some of the plot so as to not spoil the story) is that the people who are caring and loving do find some happiness in their lives.
At the same time we are meeting these characters, the big push of Russians and others are entering Ellis Island as they also search for a better life and equality. Here we meet Tateh (David Lundholm brings a warm feeling to this single father with a daughter ) and his daughter ( a charming India Rose Renteria). We also meet Houdini ( Kris Hyland) and his mother ( Kathleen Messmer, a voice you have heard many times, but in most cases, doing the National anthem) and others including the sexy Evelyn Nesbit ( played by the very sexy Maddy LaRoche). This cast of over 30 actors /singers /dancers is energetic and talented with voices that blend well together. For those unfamiliar with the show , it is one of the longer musicals ( about 1 1/2 hours for the first act, and another 1 hour for the second BUT moves well, so you will hardly notice).
What makes a production such as this a success is not just the director and the cast, but like a special recipe, the ingredients that all together complete the masterpiece, so hats off to: Robert Deason ( musical direction), John Gion and Theresa Kerrigan ( fabulous costumes), David Geinosky ( wonderful set), Matt Kool ( lighting ),Richard Neumann ( sound) and Michael Goldman and his musicians for a job well done. There are many other people who made this production one that Big Noise can be very proud of. I would have to say that the biggets problem with this show is the limited time you have to see it- it will only continue through May 11th at The Prairie Lakes Theater, 515 E. Thacker in Des Plaines ( just West of Wolf Road and South of Gulf) with performances as follows:
Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $28 ( yes, that is correct, only $28 – $23 for students and seniors) and can be purchased by calling 847-604-0275 or online at www.bignoise.org
There is plenty of free parking and FYI- there are no bad seats in this venue.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Ragtime”