WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Often, when an event is highly publicized, it disappoints. But, such is not the case with Standing Ovation Studios' production of "Ragtime: The Musical," that opened, recently, at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. The production goes beyond one's loftiest expectations.
Boasting a cast of 40 performers, Ragtime tells the story of three divergent families in the turn-of-the-century. The families, and their three backgrounds are as far apart, as one can imagine. But, their quest was very much the same, and that was, to achieve the much sought after American Dream.
Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, the show tells the story of an upper-middle-class family, in nearby New Rochelle, a star-crossed Black couple, and a determined Latvian artist, who is eager to find his niche in the United States, for himself and his daughter.
We see the ingenious blending of fictional and historical characters throughout the show. We meet industrialist Henry Ford, Black Civil Rights leader and educator Booker T. Washington, renowned escape artist Harry Houdini, banker and philanthropist J.P. Morgan and anarchist Emma Goodman.
In the beginning, we see how these three families led their lives, coupled with their ingrained distrust and prejudice for others, of different races and ethnicities.
Fate intervenes when the matriarch (Victoria Lauzen), of Westchester's "Queen City," finds a newborn black baby boy in her garden. With the help of the local authorities, the child's mother is found. Rather than having the two taken away, the heroine of our story, boldly declares that she will house Sarah (Brittney Johnson) and her little boy. Her action causes friction between her and her husband. Very little is seen of the latter, as he accompanies Admiral Robert Peary on his historic exploration of the North Pole.
Meanwhile, Colehouse Walker Jr. (FaTye) happily entertains his way through the Harlem and Tin Pan Alley circuit of Negro-only establishments. The gifted musician is determined to find his lost love. His actions intensify when he learns about the birth of their little boy.
Tateh, (Joey Sanzano) the widowed Latvian silhouette artist, does everything within his power to care for his sickly young daughter.
The clash of our protagonists and the, heretofore, legal and cultural forces of the day, reach its dramatic and heart-wrenching climax, as the curtain closes the first act.
The second act opens with our protagonists continuing to right the wrongs of the day. And, as they do so, they meld into a consciousness that, despite their differences, they are one and the same, and purpose to live as such, from this point forward.
The cruel reality of the story reminds us, that their idyllic life, as one, was not achieved in our characters' lifetimes, or those of their children.
It would be impossible to single out the stars of this extroardinary tale. Victorian Lauzin's portrayal of the forward thinking Mother, is beautifully rendered. She is the very heart and soul of the production.
We, enthusiastically, welcomed the chance to see FaTye, once again. He was once again masterful as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Joey Sanzano's essay of Tateh, shows the wide-eyed immigrant, who sees all that the United States has to offer.
Other stand-outs in this wonderful production are Grant Albright, as the Little Boy, Todd Ritch as Mother's Younger Brother and Nadine Zahr as Emma Goldman. Each, from their vantage points, saw the world around them, and could see the ills that threatened it.
We can not find enough superlatives to describe John Fanelli's efforts as director. And the cast never missed a beat under the remarkable musical direction of Dan Kazemi and choreographer Greg Graham.
Everything from the set design, to the costume design, hair, makeup and special effects, magically transports the audience to the New Rochelle and metropolitan area of more than a century ago.
"Ragtime: The Musical" runs through May 4. Reservations can be made by calling the Westchester Broadway Theatre at (914)-5922, or by visiting their website at http://www.broadwaytheatre.com/
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