The sun is setting on the Bay Street Theatre’s Summer 2022 MainStage season, but it’s dying down. For their final show of the summer, the Bay Street crew are producing their biggest production to date: the acclaimed massive musical Ragtime.
The show – which features music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a book by Terrance McNally – officially opened on Broadway in 1998 (after its world premiere in 1996 in Toronto and its US premiere in 1997 in Los Angeles). Angeles) and featured a huge company, a great show and an impressive stage at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. He has won four of the 13 Tony Awards he has been nominated for, as well as five Drama Desk Awards. It was also a hit with audiences, although Will Pomerantz, director of the forthcoming, more intimate Bay Street production, admits he didn’t immediately connect with it.
“I was impressed, but I didn’t really feel drawn to the stories. It was partly the scale, partly the architecture of the theater and partly the approach, which I think was really clearly intended to be this behemoth almost a show of a production,” Pomerantz says, adding that ‘with each smaller and smaller production he saw, he loved the show more. “I saw the newer Broadway revival, which I thought was more successful because it was scaled down. … Then I saw an even smaller production at, believe it or not, camp d “My daughter’s performing arts summer. It was done by teenagers, and they had about $15 to spend, and I was very emotional about it. … I was like, ‘This is amazing material. , in fact, now that it’s really stripped down and I can see its essence.’ It was very eye-opening, and after that, that’s when I went to see Scott Schwartz and said, ‘We should really consider doing this show…'”
Having now witnessed the true heart of Ragtime in reduced productions, Pomerantz thinks it is “one of the best musicals of the last 50 years…a masterpiece.” While believing that a full-scale musical is better when scaled down might seem like a hot take, one of the show’s creators, lyricist Lynn Ahrens, actually agrees.
“What we’ve learned over the years is that, in a way, small productions have more impact than large ones,” says Ahrens. “When we first did the show on Broadway, it was huge – the sets were huge, everything was gigantic. And you couldn’t really focus on how the stories themselves impacted everyone’s lives. of these characters. Your eyes were kind of all over the place, and you were so immersed in the glory of this massive physical production. It was mind-blowing in its own way, but when you get a small, compact, focused production… you really feel a lot more the power of the score and the power of storytelling when you’re up close and the show is smaller.
Despite this, it could be argued that the production might not have been the memorable Tony-winning masterpiece that it became if not for the freedom that the large scale afforded Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrance McNally. “It was the biggest project Stephen and I have ever undertaken, and we were so excited to look this mountain in the face and try to conquer it,” Ahrens said. “Writing for an orchestra of that size and a company of actors was very liberating, in a way, it was wonderful. There were no limits to the kinds of harmonies you could write, the kinds of general themes that you could conquer and cover.
What gave the original creators the freedom to write and experiment now creates a fun challenge for Pomerantz. Even with an 18-actor cast for Bay Street, Ragtime usually has over 20 singing/speaking roles, which means the director must carefully plan the characters’ entrances and exits, which in turn further affects the costumes, sets, and direction.
“It’s a tough show to put on,” Pomerantz says. “It’s exciting to figure out how to (adapt it) into our house style of taking traditionally very important musicals and doing them in a more intimate way. That’s what we’re doing here, but this one is an interesting challenge because there are multiple scenarios and lots and lots of characters. Understanding the logistics of this is a very exciting thing, and I think it will be exciting for the audience to see how we designed this and solved this puzzle.
The cast and crew of Pomerantz played a vital role in solving the challenges of Ragtime, including its incredibly long and complex song sequences, some of which feature costume changes and can last up to 12 minutes. The cast includes Kyrie Courter, Derrick Davis, Lora Lee Gayer, Zachary Prince, Daniel Jenkins, Harrison Bryan, Davon Williams, Clyde Voce, Rachel Parker, Taylor Jackson, Cathryn Wake, Victoria Huston-Elem, Ryan M. Hunt, Cecelia Ticktin, Will Hantz, Sonnie Betts, Ian Lowe and Brianna Kaleen.
“Each of our people is both a very good actor and a very good singer. … It’s rarer than you might think,” he says of the “historic” cast. “I think it will be memorable and an experience that people will take with them – both because of this amazing group of performers and the designers (our amazing design team) and also because of this material, which is of such high quality.”
The Ragtime The musical, based on the novel of the same name by EL Doctorow, deftly juggles the worlds of three sets of characters at the turn of the 20th century: a wealthy white couple, a Jewish immigrant and his daughter, and an Afro ragtime musician. -American.
“I think the show is universal. It’s about the human condition – whether you’re black, immigrant or white, we all have the same underlying fears and different circumstances that we need to overcome. It’s a story of America, of the melting pot, and of the people trying to figure out how they play a role in shaping a country. There’s something about it that relates to everyone, so maybe that’s the secret of its power,” Ahrens says, adding that everyone seems to have a different character that they identify with. “My dad, when he was alive, went to see the show, and I said, ‘Dad, who was your favorite character?’ And he was the little boy because he identified with the child who watched a century emerge.
“It’s only become more relevant – the issues he raises, the lens he puts on American history of race, immigration, women’s rights – in all areas, these are things that really resonate right now,” echoed Pomerantz. “The show is an incredible combination of power and emotion, sometimes very sad, but also incredibly joyful, raucous and funny. It’s a really unusual combination of a show to have all of these things in such a broad spectrum.
For tickets and more information, visit baystreet.org or call 631-725-9500.