A 'Ragtime' revival with plenty of snap

By Rob Kendt , Special to The Times
Special to The Times

February 25, 2005

Already a certified classic, the 1997 musical "Ragtime" is an encyclopedia of small, exhilarating, just-right details as much as it is a sweeping panorama of American promise and heartbreak. Its central production values aren't in its design or its "concept," but in Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' almost nonstop score and Terrence McNally's deftly woven libretto, as happy a marriage of form and function as Broadway has produced.

It's gratifying to report, then, that Musical Theatre West's new revival puts its money where "Ragtime's" heart is. Music director Darryl Archibald, leading a shimmering pit band, lingers lovingly over the deep-dish cadences of the power ballads but gives the up-tempo numbers all the snap and swing they require. And under director/choreographer Paul David Bryant — a dance captain seasoned by years on the road with the show — the fast-moving ensemble of actors seamlessly brings the show's intertwining narratives to life.

The designs aren't neglected, by any means. Steven Young's lighting proffers striking vistas of salmon, red and blue, while many of the costumes and set pieces — including that spanking-new Model T — are knockoffs or rentals from the original production. (Unfortunately, the slightly buggy microphone system clearly was not borrowed from Jonathan Deans' miraculous original sound design.)

But we'll remember this "Ragtime" for its bang-on performances. Among the leads, the men are particularly strong: David Jennings brings fresh swagger and bite to the role of Coalhouse Walker Jr., the proud Harlem musician whose quixotic search for justice is the play's central tragic action. As Tateh, the immigrant artist-turned-film-mogul, Eric Anderson is alternately raging and rumpled. And Doug Carfrae makes a lightly crusty, sympathetic Father.

The entire ensemble's palpable sense of mission and polish elevates this "Ragtime" several notches above standard revival or touring fare. These folks believe every note and word of this bold, beautiful musical. By show's end, so do we.



Where: Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Also 7 p.m. Feb. 27

Ends: March 6

Price: $20 to $47

Contact: (562) 856-1999, Ext. 4 or (562) 856-1999, Ext. 4 or

Running time: 3 hours