Ragtime: An Overview

The cast of Ragtime rehearsing in FSSA’s black box theater.

As the students, faculty, staff and administration of Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) wait anxiously for the opening of Ragtime, this year’s annual musical theatre production, the cast, crew and creative team are hard at work to fulfill their expectations.

Ragtime takes place against the backdrop of the early 20th Century in realistic locations. It follows the stories of three families, one rich white family from New Rochelle, an African-American family from Harlem, and a man and his daughter who immigrated to the tenements of the lower east side of New York from Latvia.

It explores many different political issues, such as racism, and vandalism, and relationship abuse, that still exist in today’s society. Together with these fictional, yet very real characters, are some historical figures as well, such as Emma Goldman, JP Morgan, Henry Ford, Evelyn Nesbit, and Harry Houdini. The musical even takes a glimpse at some historical events such as the famous textile strike in Lawrence, Mass.

These events are underscored by musical selections penned by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The music is part of why people find this particular show so compelling.

“The music throughout this show changes with the characters, it really lines up with their emotions,” says David Arana, a sophomore member of the Ensemble.

Aside from it’s thrilling music, this story holds educational value that has taught the cast a lot about human emotion.

“Being in this show has definitely been a learning experience for me,” says Jada Vick, who plays Sarah in the blue cast. “This is a show where you can take your personal life and use that to tap into the emotions that you need to convey up on the stage.”

Ragtime is proven to be a show where the cast incorporates real life emotions onto the stage.

“My character and I both lack a voice,” says Jake Hoerner, a sophomore who plays Mother’s younger brother. “And we both spend our time trying to find one. In addition to that, we’re both very passionate.”

This production has taught not only its cast a considerable amount, but it has taught the creative team many things as well.

“Historically, I have learned a lot,” says Ms. Best, the Musical Director of Ragtime. “I also hope that they [the audience] learn something historically, that they learn something about themselves, and open their eyes to what’s going on in the world right now, because it’s so poignant.”

The story follows Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a man who’s car is destroyed and the judicial system turns a blind eye to his outrage and misery. There are many parallels to today from the time period in which this show takes place. The cast of
Ragtime hopes that the audience is left inspired to make a change in the world.

“What I want people to take away from this show is a sense of justice,” says Micahl Evans, who plays Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in the blue cast.

Ms. Best agrees and can’t wait for the audience’s reaction.

“I hope that they say to themselves that they can’t believe that this was a student production; that it’s so well done, it’s like going to a real Broadway show,” states Ms. Best.

Ragtime opens March 9th, 2018 at 7:00pm, in the Tony Bennett Concert Hall. Get your tickets at http://www.franksinatraschoolofthearts.org/show-calendar/

or see Ms. Marchetta in the main office.

– by Andrew Koehler ’18