Ragtime: The Musical

Feb 19 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Bold and punchy

The Pleasance Theatre: Weds 18 – Sat 21 Feb 2015

An engaging and dynamic production of Ragtime: The Musical from A Team Productions showcases Edinburgh’s fantastic amateur youth talent at the Pleasance Theatre this week.

Based on E L Doctorow’s novel of the same name, the musical tells a story of early 20th century New York. It focusses on class, gender and race tensions between three groups of people: white wealthy landowners, African Americans and Eastern European immigrants.

Jamie Duffy (Tateh) and Kazia Falconer as his daughter with Kieran Brown as Father in the background. Photo: Neil McDowell Smith

Jamie Duffy (Tateh) and Kazia Falconer as his daughter with Kieran Brown as Father in the background. Photo: Neil McDowell Smith

Ragtime is a musical extravaganza. With a memorable score and a powerful orchestra, the production is mostly sung-through so that the story is told through the songs with some accompanying snippets of spoken dialogue. This effectively intensifies the emotion and charm of the performances, with the cast maintaining their characterisation throughout – Erin Bowden in particular gives an outstanding portrayal in terms of both character and accent of political anarchist, Emma Goldman.

However, there are times when the power of the full orchestra swamps the more subtle and delicate moments in the first half of the musical. While this might have been down to opening night sound issues, the first act is tentative and uncertain, perhaps in keeping with the slowly building story. However, some of the choreography is challenging, particularly around available stage space for group ensembles.

The second act shines, with confident and assured performances from the actors as their characters grow in stature. Katie Stephen’s direction creates scenes and dynamics that are dramatic, with bold use of imagery and effects. Scenes set in a ball game, Atlantic City and a movie are particularly nicely sequenced, with both humour and clever interplays.

foundation stone

The plot follows the intersecting stories of three very different lives and experiences. Celia Lang plays Mother; the matriarch of a White upper class family. Lang has a clean, clear and piercing voice which expertly conveys Mother’s empathy, moral consciousness and introspective nature.

Mother is the foundation stone around which the other two stories entwine. Her chance encounters with Coalhouse (Ifro Thomas) a Harlem pianist and Tateh (Jamie Duffy) a Jewish immigrant from Latvia, guide and develop the circumstances that go on to change all their lives.

Duffy plays Tateh (and his successful alter-ego Baron Ashkenazy) with an initial hopeful naivety that soon turns to disillusionment then wondrous luck. In their duet, ‘Our Children’, he and Lang display wonderful chemistry accompanied by their delightful and innocent children, played by Ryan Sher and Kazia Falconer.

Similarly, the duet scenes between Coalhouse and his doomed fiancée, Sarah (Cera Kamonji) are touching, with Kamoji demonstrating a remarkable stage presence that has a beautiful subtlety.

Ragtime leaves the impression of a very American story about hope and expectation in a world which is sometimes tarnished by prevailing cultures and attitudes. This production is cleverly adapted to highlight modern considerations around how one man’s fight for justice is another man’s terrorist. It is entertaining in the telling, but addresses some complex concepts and, in doing so, certainly packs some punch!

Running time: 2 hours 50 mins (including interval)
Pleasance Theatre, Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance EH8 9TJ
Wednesday 18 – Saturday 21 February 2015
Evenings: 7.30pm; matinee Saturday: 2.30pm.
Tickets from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ragtime-tickets-15160921725
Event facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/837283652984914/

Purchase the OCR; vocal selections; or the original novel on Amazon:


18-21 February, Evenings 7.30pm


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