I saw Rags in Boston, pre Broadway. According to one of my theatrical bibles "Not Since Carrie" the show got worse instead of better as it headed to NYC, so if that is correct I saw it at its best. WHAT A MESS! There were two worthwhile pieces to what I saw, Teresa Stratas' incandescent performance as Rebecca and my first look at a performer I now cherish, Judy Kuhn. Stratas was hampered by the ineffectual book and variability of the score, but it still was a performance to remember, great actress/singer triumphing over material while Kuhn was blazing in the title song.
Not too long ago I spun the CD (Julia Migenes in place of Stratas) and I found the score with high points for sure, but also some really banal stuff (everything to do with Larry Kert as Nate). Others seem to find this one of the great might have been musicals, mostly for the score, I am not sure I agree all that much.
One error, which might be just a typo: Rags dates from 1986, Ragtime premiered on Broadway 1998, so Rags was first.