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Ragtime



Diane and I recently drove to Worcester to see a performance of RAGTIME, the musical based on the E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name.

The novel, published in 1975, became a movie in 1981 and a Broadway musical in 1998.

It was nominated for just about every Tony Award during its Broadway run, and it won four of those Tonys, including Best Book for a Musical, and Best Original Score.

It was revived on Broadway in 2009, and that revival won several more Tonys.

The play begins with a lot of exposition. Each of the central characters sings a brief song describing him/herself in the third person. This would normally seem flat-footed, but the story from Doctorow is a very complicated one, so this is arguably the line of least audience confusion. And the music is compelling enough to make this opening work.

That opening describes where the main characters are in their lives in 1904.

One odd feature of it is a bit of parapsychology.  Some of the main characters consist of a nuclear family, wealthy white folk, living in New Rochelle, New York. There's a grandfather, a father and mother, a young boy, and a bachelor uncle --- Mom's brother. Through happenstance, they meet the escape artist Houdini.

Houdini (as was explained to us in the expository scene) understood that his 'magic' was just illusion, and he wanted to encounter something genuinely mystical. The young boy, Edgar, blurts out to him "Warn the Duke." Houdini has no idea what this means. Years later, engaged in a stunt in Times Square, Houdini learns of the dramatic world-changing news from Sarajevo, and the boy's warning comes back to him.

Thus, he has his encounter with the genuinely mystical. Anyway, I think the Tony Awards were fairly won.

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