From the opening scene of the “Ragtime” silhouettes to the closing songs ‘Wheels of a Dream’, Fullerton College’s fall production carries the spirit and message of the Terrence McNally book. With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the songs capture New York life in the 1920’s.
The musical follows three distinct families: A wealthy white family, a Harlem musician and his child’s mother and a Latvian immigrant and his daughter. Each scene comes across strong with the dialogue, music, and lighting that leaves the audience engaged through the whole run.
An upper class, New Rochelle family is the focus of the first story in “Ragtime.” They are the representation of the top of the three families and show the distinction in socioeconomic places. While each member of the family is distinct, the characters of Edgar (played by Wilson Mizell) and the grandfather (Michael Korhonen) are the most entertaining. Both are characters with little-to-no filter and they help lighten the mood, which threatens to get too gloomy at times.
“What Kind of Woman” shows the beauty of this musical when the mother takes care of Sarah (Brittany Logan) and her baby after finding him in the bushes of her home. That scene was very powerful. The character of the Mother is very appealing because of her caring nature which extends to a child that was not her own. Her acting drew in the audience and really made them sympathize with her.
The second family features Matthew Carvin, who plays Tateh and his daughter (Seqoia Valverde) both Jewish-Latvian immigrants on board to America for a better life. “A Shtetl Iz Amereke” carries all sorts of emotions based on the hardships that immigrants faced and yet still pushing forward to achieve the American dream.
Carvin’s acting was very strong in voice and movement, making the audience root for his success. He was believable portraying the life of an immigrant man who lives with the constant struggle to get by.
The third family centers around Harlem pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. (James Oronoz) and Sarah. Oronoz had a very strong appeal and was most definitely the most prominent character in the show. His story has a darkness that made everyone curious as to what he would do next.
The musical was stunning because of the empathy showed towards the characters and their hopes in the midst of social and race issues at that time. Not only does the book convey all these messages but so does the musical which makes the story more dramatic and personal.
Given that this is Fullerton College’s centennial year, this production reflects the times when the campus first opened. “Ragtime” is one production that all should make time to see.
“Ragtime” runs from Thursday to Friday with shows starting at 7 p.m. and a Sunday matinee starting at 2.