Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
This production has a fifteen-member company of actors, which would seem to be at odds with the extreme intimacy of the theater. Still, this Ragtime never feels overcrowded or cramped. The score is played by just two pianists (musical director David Wolfson and Mark Ceppetelli, both extraordinary), but the vast scale of the songs is made fully apparent by all of the lead roles, who are perfectly cast. On a multi-level, extremely functional set, expertly designed by Jessie Lizotte, the action is fully presented, as one scene and song follow another, often to showstopping effect.
Director Connors has taken a musical that would seem to demand a large theater and made everything work beautifully on a very small stage. Among the many qualities of this show, it is perhaps the performers who shine most brightly. In the role of Coalhouse Walker, Jr., Ezekiel Andrew is just fabulous, with a voice that raises the rafters, and he is able to convey both the triumph and the tragedy of his character. Juliet Lambert Pratt, as Mother, is simply outstanding and looks great in all of Diane Vanderkroef's gorgeous costumes. Pratt is luminous throughout, with her "Back to Before" solo being a definite highlight.
Frank Mastrone is a revelation as Tateh, especially in showing the arc that his character travels over the course of the show. In other key roles, Jacob Sundlie is excellent as Younger Brother, as is Dennis Holland as Father, particularly in the song "New Music." Playing several different parts, Mia Scarpa is a powerful Emma Goldman, and Jessica Molly Schwartz and Christian Cardozo are superb as Evelyn Nesbitt and Harry Houdini, respectively. Ari Frimmer, Hannah Pressman, and the strong-voiced Kanova Latrice Johnson are equally fantastic.
But the most moving performance is given by the lovely and heartbreaking Soara-Joye Ross as Sarah. This is a showy role, which won Audra McDonald a Tony, but Ross brings her own transcendence to the part and her delivery of "Your Daddy's Son," my favorite song in the show, had me in tears.
Just about every number in this show scores triumphantly, and there is also superlative work from lighting and projection designer RJ Romeo, and the musical staging by Chris McNiff is just delightful.
Ragtime will always be a powerfully emotional show and Music Theatre of Connecticut offers proof that a musical this ambitious can succeed on a grand scale even in a small space. This Ragtime is magnificent and should be requisite viewing for anyone who loves musical theatre. And make sure you bring tissues.
Ragtime runs through October 13, 2019, at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk CT. For tickets and information, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.