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New York state of mind


In staging the American musical classic ‘Ragtime,’ Lyric takes audiences to turn-of-the-century New York.

Eric Webb July 20th, 2011

Ragtime
7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker
lyrictheatreokc.com, 524-9312
$31-$60

Lyric Theatre takes audiences back in time to New York at the beginning of the 20th century in its production of “Ragtime.” Written by Terrence McNally, the Tony Award-winning musical was adapted from E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel.

“Ragtime” explore the plights of three different families: one from Harlem, one from the white suburb of New Rochelle, and one from the immigrant neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. Their intertwining stories bring them in contact with historical figures such as Henry Ford,  J.P.Morgan and Emma Goldman.

According to director Michael Baron, each family tells a different part of the American story at that time.

“The Harlem family is dealing with a newborn and trying to give their child the new American Dream while coming into constant contact with racism and fear,” Baron said. “The suburban family is trying to negotiate the newly changing roles of the domestic wife while also struggling to embrace America’s growing diversity. The immigrant father and his daughter struggle to find purpose and a home in their new country.”

Baron wanted to stage “Ragtime” for a number of reasons, many of them personal.

“Seeing the original production was one of the most powerful evenings of theater I have ever experienced,” he said. “The story and music are resonant and emotional on so many levels for me as a theater artist, lover of American history and as a someone whose family also immigrated to America at the turn of the century.”

Baron has assembled an impressive cast for “Ragtime,” comprised of local actors and veterans of Broadway and national tours.

Coming off a starring role in Broadway’s “Scottsboro Boys,” Derrick Cobey makes his Lyric debut as Harlem musician Coalhouse Walker Jr.

“He has a glorious voice, a clear sense of period and a deep emotional connection to the material,” Baron said. “Mateja Govich, who plays Tateh the immigrant Jew, is from an immigrant family himself and is giving a very personal and powerful performance.”

Kristy Cates plays Mother, while Adrianna Hicks plays Sarah.

“Kristy Cates has one of the best female voices working in musical theater today,” Baron said, adding she “brings a new sense of love and humor to the role I haven’t seen before.”

And he said Hicks “is truly a star in the making. She has a voice and maturity beyond her years and gives a performance of grief and triumph not to be missed.”

Baron said that while much of “Ragtime” is ultimately fiction, its basis is rooted deep in American truths.

“We have all struggled and rejoiced while trying to reach the American Dream, and ‘Ragtime’ shares how difficult it is to achieve the ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “It is honest, emotional and ultimately inspiring — the true hallmarks of great theater.”

 
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