RAGTIME To 8 September.


book by Terrence McNally music by Stephen Flaherty lyrics by Lynn Ahrens based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow.

Open Air Theatre Inner Circle Regent’s Park NW1 4NU
to 8 September 2012.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 826 4242.
Review: William Russell 14 June.

Rain Stops Play.
Based on E.L.Doctorow’s sprawling, picaresque novel about the American dream Ragtime tries hard to be the Great American Musical – and fails, albeit honourably enough in this staging directed by Timothy Sheader.

The problem is the book lacks focus, the real-life people in the cast are obscure as far as British audiences are concerned, with the exception perhaps of Harry Houdini, and therefore really pointless, while Stephen Flaherty’s score sounds a bit like Andrew Lloyd Weber on an off day.

Flaherty also does not employ the genre of the title to effect. His rags are no great shakes. Sheader has set the action against today’s state of the Dream, the cast in modern dress gradually dressing up in period as the stories unfold. The stage is a rubbish dump, either the detritus of American society or the aftermath of a terrorist bomb, overlooked by a ruined poster of Barak Obama promising a golden future. (designer Jon Bausor clearly has a thing about recycling.)

The complicated plot involves Mother (Rosalie Craig, rather good), a put-upon wife who discovers herself as an independent woman and stands up to her bigot husband. He’s Coalhouse Walker (Rolan Bell), a ragtime musician, victim of racism, who turns urban terrorist after his wife is murdered and his car vandalised, and Tateh (John Marquez), a Jewish immigrant who ends up a movie mogul.

But none of the tales hold centre stage, and a dodgy sound system means that sometimes one has no idea who is singing the song. Sheader has worked musical miracles in the past, but not this time round. One has, however, to admire the stoicism of the cast – rain stopped play ten minutes into act two but they looked ready to carry on regardless.

Harry Houdini: Stephane Aneli.
Little Boy: Fin Banks.
Coalhouse Walker: Rolan Bell.
Father: David Birrell.
Evelyn Nesbit: Katie Brayben.
Little Girl: Lily Burgering.
Emma Goldman: Tamsin Carroll.
J.P.Morgan: Anthony Clegg.
Mother: Rosalie Craig.
Little Boy: Rory Fraser.
Little Boy: Ewan Harris.
Little Girl: Lila Heller.
Younger Brother: Harry Hepple.
Sarah: Claudia Kariuki.
Willie Conklin: Joshua Lacey.
Tateh: John Marquez.
Booker T. Washington: Sophia Nomvete.
Little Girl: Oriana Pooles.
Henry Ford: Carl Sanderson.
Grandfather: Jo Servi.
Ensemble: Jamal Andreas, Louise Bowden, Hayley Gallivan, Shimi Goodman, Waylon Jacobs, Kurt Kansley, Mireia Mambo-Bokele, Sandra Marvin, Corinna Powlesland, Caroline Rovina, Lucy St Louis, Tom Wods.

Director: Timothy Sheader.
Designer: Jon Bauser.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Sound: Nick Lidster for Autograph.
Orchestrator: Christ Walker.
Musical Director: Nigel Lilley.
Choreographer: Javier de Frutos.
Costume: Laura Hopkins.
Dialect coach: Majella Hurley.
Fight director; Kate Waters.
Associate director: Barbara Houseman.

2012-06-17 17:18:17

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