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Regent Park's Ragtime

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#31 bertie



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Posted 21 May 2012 - 05:45 PM

Claudia Kariuki makes a fantastic debut as Sarah and I think will only get better in the role as the run progresses. Audra Macdonald's vocals are so extraordinarily memorable though that I found myself being slightly disappointed. It doesn't help that she is also partnered with a weak Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Rolan Bell. Who seemed to already be having vocal difficulty with the role and was playing the immaturity of the character so much that his presence eventually became rather annoying.  

I don't want to spoil the concept behind the production but will say that both modern dress and period clothing are worn by all the characters, and to sometimes shocking and thrilling effect. Go see it. The more I think about this production the more special it seems. I will definitely be making a return visit later in the run.

#32 Mark_E


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Posted 21 May 2012 - 11:03 PM

Claudia and Rosalie were the highlights of the show for me tonight! Especially Rosalie's Back to Before, absolutely stunning. The Polish guy and his daughter were adorable! Rolan Bell is totally miscast as Coalhouse, his vocals are very weak and his diction muffled. He has two of the best numbers in the show and it just didn't work for me.

I really liked the "concept", and the set was used to great effect. Would definitely recommend.

#33 londontheatrefan



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Posted 22 May 2012 - 01:21 PM

I agree with Bertie entirely. Rolan Bell plays the role far too young and doesn't have the stage presence to really pull off Act II in particular. His voice is also the weakest amongst a very talented company. There were times when he missed entries and was just out of tune. I expect this will get better with confidence. Awkwardly, he shares the stage with Waylon Jacobs who played the role in the wonderful Landor production last year. He was outstanding in my opinion and was a much better Coalhouse. Must be hard for him to watch that...

Overall I am undecided what I think. I loved the original Broadway production, even the revival and the Landor version. I hated the opening and the initial set up of the concept, but as the show moves along you actually forget about it and just get lost in the incredible score and story. It seemed altogether too busy. Too many concepts being attempted, no fully thought our or followed through. Booker T Washington as a woman made no sense to me, neither did a black Grandfather. Colour blind casting is obviously acceptable, but I feel it was used in this case for controversy's sake, and actually made for a confusing set up. If I didn't know the show I'm not sure how I would have responded, if it made complete sense etc. People around me struggled with the story enough rather than trying to penetrate Sheader's over complicated take on it. It felt like it was trying too hard to be something different, and at times it did feel like they were pushing a circle through a square.

Performance wise, most of the cast were flawless. Some missed music entries, cues etc that can be expected in previews along with an awful lot of feedback from mobile phones (at the climax of both Back to Before and Your Daddy's Son!) which I have never heard happen at the Open Air.

Audience wise - I would say it was less than half full. Quite a few non returners after the interval. The first act got polite applause, but the big numbers brought it home.

Without ruining it for people I don't want to say what else worked well/not so well with the concept. I picked out a few things that could change after previews based on audience feedback. Very clunky visual at the end that detracted attention from the staging. Well worth seeing on the whole - I do feel that London needed a full scale original production before we got to this new way of looking at it. I spent much of my time answering questions from friends who wanted to know how the show 'should' or 'has' been done...

It will certainly divide opinions!!

#34 DrP


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Posted 24 May 2012 - 09:22 AM

My thoughts from last night...


This is one of my favourite musicals but I wasn't blown away. The concept is interesting but as someone mentioned, it's a bit of a case of design over direction. My friend, who is also a musicals fan, found it quite hard to follow and I can see why. What is already a show with multiple storylines and many characters is made more complex by cross-gender and cross-race casting, which in a show largely about race and gender, adds another 'layer' for new audiences to try and work through. I don't have anything against this type of casting, don't get me wrong, but I felt it was trying to be just a touch too clever, if you see what I mean. Why was a black guy playing the white grandfather? Why was a woman playing Booker T Washington? But yet Emma Goldman and Tateh were 'correctly' cast? I can see what the director was going for, with the opening scenes in modern America showing a vibrant mixed community, but isn't the show's point to show how everyone started off un-integrated?
This show is still relatively unknown, so to play with character/setting in this way means you have to ensure the story and direction are crystal clear for anyone not familiar with it ... unfortunately it wasn't in this production.

Mother and Tateh both very strong, but sad to say Coalhouse and Sarah just didn't stand out for me. Sarah's fate at end of act 1 should be a huge shock and really affect the audience - Coalhouse's reaction and the overly staged number sort of left it as a bit unnoticed. It's the whole company numbers which work best - the finale is beautifully sung, although some of the lyrics have been changed (unless this is a change from the last Broadway revival which I don't know as well) and some of the usually-soaring song endings fall a bit flat.

The set is obviously expensive and very thought-provoking (if a bit of a muddled metaphor - a sort of 9/11 apocalyptic wasteland with icons of Americana strewn about and an Obama election poster dominating) but has some totally over the top flourishes, including a crane that seems to be used a few times simply to get its money's worth. The *cough* car moment at the end is a little bit bizarre.

Anyway, worth seeing particularly for the interesting concept if the lovely weather stays around, but the message is somewhat shoved in the audience's face and I personally would have preferred a more traditionally-designed version.

#35 Steve10086


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Posted 26 May 2012 - 05:02 PM

I quite liked the concept of this version, and find the 'Mother's younger brother...' stuff at the start quite strange in standard productions.  That felt like an improvement to me.

#36 freckles


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Posted 26 May 2012 - 08:09 PM

Saw it this afternoon, never having seen it before & knowing very little about it, except having heard a few songs. I found Act 1 very difficult to follow & while some of the musical numbers were OK, the piece just didn't seem to flow as a whole.
It was very, very hot & rather uncomfortably so in our seats though, so maybe I wasn't as relaxed as I could be - the interval was very welcome.
I'm glad I stuck with it for Act 2 though (& that my row got a bit of shade then!) as I liked it much more, the story seemed to flow better & there was some fantastic choreography, that was missing in Act 1 when it was all a bit arty & flimsy.
I didn't connect emotionally with any of the main characters much, and think it ought to be much more moving. Some of the historical characters seemed as though they were out of a Disney diorama.
But overall, very interesting & I did like it by the end. I think they must have stopped the business with the car at the end though, I'm sure that didn't happen (unless it was out of my sightline?); they just formed an orderly queue for the film or whatever it was!
The audience was awfully behaved though, so much wandering about & moving seats mid performance. It was very hot, as I said but it still seemed rude for people to just scurry about when they felt like it.

#37 Zippy


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Posted 27 May 2012 - 12:27 AM

I was there this afternoon too. I've seen Ragtime before so knew what to expect. It kind of needs a couple of viewings to get it. It was incredibly hot with no real shade at all and all the moving around was annoying but I guess understandable as it was baking hot and there were a lot of elderly people there. I'm going to see it again, but this time in the evening when it's not quite so hot. Thought the cast was very good though I thought that the actor playing Coalhouse lacked the required stage presence & charm. I also found the whole modern clothing mixed with period clothing confusing and why on earth is the grandfather in this production black when his offspring are white? Bizarre!

#38 power-ranger


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Posted 29 May 2012 - 04:15 PM

I think Michael Coveney's review is unfair. I was there on Saturday afternoon and has many other on this board have already commented - it was extremely hot and a shame that so many of the elderly left during the first act.

I think Ragtime is an often overlooked and underrated show, the score is wonderful, and although I didn't enjoy this version as much as the production at the Piccadilly a few years back, I think it takes real guts to try and do something new with a piece such as this, and I actually felt that Timothy Sheader's set and costume changes 'worked'.

My criticism really is in the casting - Ragtime isn't a well-known piece, so mixing up the race and gender of parts in a piece all about race, gender and class only confused the Ragtime virgins I was with even more - the confusion surrounding the casting and the poor sound only sought to disengage the audience more, however the second act sound improved and people seemed to enjoy this much more.

Coalhouse and Sarah - pivotal roles were weak in this production - Coalhouse lacks the voice and charisma, but Claudia as Sarah really looked like she was 'going through the motions' but seemed to give nothing to her performance at all.

I was disappointed with Evelyn Nesbit as Rebecca Thorhill had been so wonderful in the Piccadilly production. However I was pleasantly surprised by John Marquez as Tateh and Stephane Annelli as Houdini.

The standout performance in this has got to be Rosalie Craig as Mother, her Back To Before was worth my ticket price alone and I felt for her that she didn't get to play the part in a better production.

I hope Timothy will still consider making some changes and I'd like to go and see it again at the end of the run. It's a great show and a shame that it doesn't look as though this will have the same success as it's predecessors

#39 Lady Nijo

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 08:04 PM

I love the music from the show. Shame the hope for the future that is built into the score is counteracted by the post-apocolyptic setting. At least, I think it's post-apocolyptic. Not quite sure. They were all wearing modern day dress, including pink jumpsuit, so not sure how big of an apocolypse it was. Maybe it's just a bunch of people telling stories of the past at their local junkyard. Who knows. Was there something in the programme that explained?

#40 DrP


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Posted 30 May 2012 - 09:51 PM

To me the wasteland looked like 9/11 Ground Zero. There were shards of metal and concrete sticking up which looked like the debris from the Twin Towers. But then, there was an Obama billboard thrown in the mix. I guess it was trying to show how the integration of societies at the end of the show has either crumbled and collapsed, or succeeded in that the president is the first of his race. But the metaphor is mixed and way, way too layered for this show.

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