Thursday February 22 11:47 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Marriott's "Ragtime" is Fabulous!

Ragtime-vert.jpg

“Ragtime” is about three disparate communities with absolutely nothing in common: white families living in New Rochelle, black families living in Harlem and Eastern European immigrants hoping for a better life. I think that in every staging of “Ragtime” I’ve seen the three groups are clumsily shuttled on and off stage – never touching. This is particularly obvious in the Prologue, “Ragtime”.

Marriott’s theater in the round (or the square to be exact) necessitates a different approach. After The Little Boy (Patrick Scott McDermott) introduces his family, Father (Adam Monley), Mother (Kathy Voytko), Mother’s Younger Brother (Will Mobley), and Grandfather (Terry Hamilton), the people from New Rochelle cluster in the center of the stage.

Entering from one of Marriott’s ramps, the Harlem contingent, including Coalhouse Walker, Jr. (Nathaniel Stampley) and Sarah (Katherine Thomas), dance to the ragtime music of a piano, eventually forming a loose circle around the cluster. Tateh (Benjamin Magnuson) and his daughter, The Little Girl (Paula Hlava), and the other immigrants enter from a different ramp, eventually forming another circle around the dancers from Harlem. As the circles move, there’s a blending which I thought was very effective.

Real people from history like J.P. Morgan (Larry Adams), Henry Ford (Matt Deitchman), Booker T. Washington (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis), Emma Goldman (Christina Hall), Evelyn Nesbitt (Michelle Lauto) and Harry Houdini (Alexander Aguilar) also move through the story.

Father manifests WASP attitudes toward women, minorities, immigrants, and anyone who isn’t rich. He made all of the decisions for his family, at least until he decided to go on an expedition to the North Pole. After all, he told Mother, he expected to be gone for no more than a year, and not much happens in that amount of time anyway.

Meanwhile, Tateh has learned that America is a tough place for immigrants, at least until he comes up with a brand new idea – a book with pages of cut-out silhouettes which when flipped simulates motion.
When he finally comes home, everything has changed. Mother found a baby in her garden, took in both the baby and his mother, Sarah, and allowed the baby’s father, Coalhouse Walker Jr.– in spite of their skin color. Mother treated Tateh and his Little Girl with respect.

One day, as he drove through New Rochelle, Coalhouse’s car is destroyed by the neighborhood bigots aka volunteer firemen. When multiple police departments fail to get him justice, he took the law into his own hands. Suddenly, when the Family is hit with notoriety, Father ordered Mother to give up Sarah and the baby, which she refused to do.

Notable songs – “Goodbye, My Love”, “Getting’ Ready Rag”, “Your Daddy’s Son”, “Sarah Brown Eyes”, and “Back to Before”.

“Ragtime” runs through March 18th at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Parking is free; valet parking is also available.

Running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes, with an intermission. Performances are Wednesdays at 1:00 and 7:30 pm; Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 pm; and Sundays at 1:00 and 5:00 pm. Tickets range from $50-$60. A limited number of dinner-theatre packages are available. FYI (847) 634-0200, www.marriotttheatre.com or www.ticketmaster.com.