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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Produced by John W Carter and Jason Ferguson in association with the Landor Theatre

 

Ragtime the Musical

 

Kurt Kansley in Ragtime at the Landor Theatre

Photo by Tim Parker 

 

Book by Terrence McNally

 

Music by Stephen Flaherty

 

Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

 

Based on the novel Ragtime by E.L Doctorow

 

Directed by Robert McWhir

 

Musical Direction and Additional Arrangements by George Dyer

 

Landor Theatre

 

1 September - 8 October 2011

 

 

Set in the turn of 20th Century New York, Ragtime the Musical is the extraordinary tale of three groups of people who are divided by race, class and lifestyle, but also intrinsically linked by a belief in the possibilities America can offer. Quests for peace, pride and justice are the binding matter which link the many vastly different characters, most explicitly expressed in an overwhelming performance of “Till We Reach That Day, led by Emmah Beckford (as Sarah's Friend), closing the first half on a wave of emotion.

The story very much belongs to The Little Boy who was endearingly portrayed by George Smith at this performance. Curious, enthusiastic, and most vitally, without prejudice, he has the wonderfully generous and sensitive demeanour of Mother (Louisa Lydell) to thank for his broad world view. The story reverts to a telling from his perspective at intervals and all the characters are excellently arranged and, convincing when speaking about their own role in this epic tale in the third person as the story progresses.

The plot revolves around three intense stage pairings; Mother and The Little Boy form an understated but vital partnership, struggling immigrant Tateh (John Barr) and his silent but expressive daughter (Ashley Clish) are convincingly inseparable and Coalhouse and Sarah (Rosalind James) perform some overwhelming duets which punctuate their wonderful love-affair. Graham Hodley contributes a champion performance as the perpetually irritated Grandfather providing light relief and serious comment simultaneously.

 

(left to right) Judith Paris, Ashley Clish, John Barr in Ragtime at Landor Theatre

Photo by Tim Parker 

 

 

The set, though simplistic at first glance, is incredibly inventive; pulleys operate silhouettes which are drawn behind a lighted screen to represent each new scene like the New York cityscape and Coalhouse's (Kurt Kansley) Ford motorcar. Lighting by Howard Hudson serves to enhance this wonderful approach to scene changes, meaning the potentially restricting stage space at the Landor Theatre rarely feels so, even when more than twenty dancing characters occupy the stage at once. This fluidity and creative use of space has been enhanced even further through excellent choreography by Matthew Gould.

Musical Director, George Dyer, leads a heady five-piece band in rousing renditions of all the tunes, with both the band and actors contributing especially enthusiastically to exciting performances of “The Gettin' Ready Rag” and “What a Game”. Key figures of the era are summoned to epitomise each group within the action: Booker T. Washington (Raymond Coker) is a mentor for disillusioned Harlem singer Coalhouse. Harry Houdini (Craig Rhys Barlow) is a pillar of the immigrant community providing the benchmark for success and Henry Ford (Leo Myles) is the smooth and suave model of industrial and commercial prosperity.

The costumes, supervised by Hannah Gibbs, are intricate and attractive, astutely representing class divides as well as the characters' personalities - Father's (Alexander Evans) return from exploration in a woolly jumper and with full beard is a high point, as is any appearance of the exceptionally well turned out Henry Ford in tailored finery. The ladies of New Rochelle with parasols and extravagant dresses are also a delight to behold.

It is not difficult to see why Ragtime The Musical premiered on Broadway to such acclaim in 1996; it is a truly engaging piece of musical theatre. To see such an immense story condensed absolutely without compromise and staged in a venue as intimate as The Landor Theatre is an utter treat. This is an unmissable revival.

 

 
(left to right) Graham Hoadly, George Smith, David McMullen,  Louisa lydell in Ragtime at Landor Theatre

Photo by Tim Parker 

Box Office: 020 7737 7276
www.landortheatre.co.uk
Landor Theatre
70 Landor Road, London. SW9 9PH
Tickets: £18

 

 

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