Talkin' BroadwayPast Columns


So Ben Brantley panned Ragtime. Big deal, who cares? Brantley, of course, is the chief drama critic of the once all powerful New York Times whose stamp of approval or disapproval could make or break a show, but that was another era. Brantley stands alone as the other New York papers raved in their reviews. Is he wrong in his assessment?

I don't think so. I think he just had the courage to write a rather brave review of the show. He's not alone in how he feels about. I've heard and talked to many Broadway people who absolutely cannot stand Ragtime. I know that on first viewing the show in L.A., I didn't particularaly take to it. Forget the music and the execution of the musical, but the storyline and all that symbolism is what bothered me. Being an Irish American, third generation, puts me smack in the middle of the Willie Conklins of the era. If Ragtime portrays the various segments of society at the turn of the century, then I come from a long line of dregs! Thus, the white guilt!

Oh, I jest of course, but there is an underlying feeling of resentment about the show, perhaps deep down, and maybe I just don't need a reminder of my racist ancestors? Perhaps, if it didn't take itself so seriously, and maybe added a dash more humor, I would love the show more. Just Sarah's deed in the garden alone made me dislike her instantly, so how could I warm up to her, or even Coalhouse, who takes the law into his own hands. Ah, but this will take weeks of therapy for me to figure out.

Ragtime is a must see show for many reasons. First, are the performances by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald and the rest of the cast. No matter what I think of the storyline, the show is executed brilliantly. From the breathtaking opening number to those scorching ballads, Ragtime is a theater masterpiece and you have to see it. I've now seen it twice and will see it a third time on Wednesday. I enjoy it immensely even though I'd like to shoot my grandfather, Willie Conklin, for being such an embarrassment; I'll deal with the white guilt on the couch and not in the theater. Tony voters, though, may just lean toward the Lion!

Tidbits: Speaking of Tony voters, they are meeting today to decide on the fate of the Kit Kat Klub and it's eligibility as an acceptable house according to the Tony rules. This is all nonsense, of course. Of course, they'll allow the theater to be eligible. If they don't, I'll send Willie Conklin to pay a short visit and sway the vote. Actually, my grandfather was a politician whose slogan was "Vote Early and Vote Often!"

What's next? Ah, yes, The Capeman, the show we don't like talking about. Why? Cause it's in trouble, that's why, and we don't like spreading bad word of mouth. I'll be seeing it on Tuesday with Christina D'Angelo and we're both hoping that Jerry Zaks can come through with his magic and fix the problems. Everyone says that the score is wonderful, so with a nip here and a tuck there, who knows?

Barrymores on Monday. I think we are up to 30 people who are going to drop by, either for drinks or dinner, and many are seeing the 10th Anniversary performance of Phantom of the Opera. If you would like to join us, last call. We'll be there from 4:45 to 6:45. The upfront dining room only seats 34! I'll see ya at the bar!

Past Rialto Columns

Search What's New on the Rialto

Privacy Policy