“Ragtime” brings musical magic to stage

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Photo by Issac James Creative BRILLIANT PERFORMANCE—Coalhouse (Rufus Bonds, Jr.) demands justice against prejudice in “Ragtime.” This production is based on the landmark E. L. Doctorow novel and features a Tony Award-winning score by Lynn Ahrens and

With its passionate, sweeping score, peppered by unforgettable songs, Orange County’s 3-D Theatricals presents an amazing and inspiring production of “Ragtime,” one of Broadway’s most critically acclaimed and much beloved musicals, at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center in Redondo Beach, CA for six performances through Nov. 9. If you love Broadway musicals, do not miss this production!

“Ragtime,” is based on the landmark E. L. Doctorow novel and features a Tony Award-winning score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally. This powerful portrait of turn-of-the-century America intertwines the stories of three diverse families as they confront history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, and hope and despair, against a background of historical celebrities like Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, J.P. Morgan and Booker T. Washington.

Directed by 3-D Theatricals’ Executive Producer/Artistic Director T.J. Dawson, with Musical Direction by Julie Lamoureux, and Choreography by Dana Solimando, the show also celebrates a panoramic view of American life by way of an eclectic mix of remarkable songs such as “Wheels of a Dream,” “Getting Ready Rag,” “Your Daddy’s Son,” “Till We Reach That Day,” “Back To Before,” and “Make Them Hear You.”

Featuring a cast of nearly 50 incredibly talented performers, “Ragtime” stars Rufus Bonds, Jr. (Coalhouse Walker Jr.), Craig McEldowney (Father), Tyler MicLean (Younger Brother), Gary Patent (Tateh), Daebreon Poiema (Sarah), and Christanna Rowader (Mother). Rounding out the cast is Brooke Besikof (Little Girl), Jimmer Bolden (Booker T. Washington), John McCool Bowers (J.P. Morgan), Gary Brintz (Harry Houdini), Doug Carfrae (Grandfather), Jeanette Dawson (Evelyn Nesbit), Jean Kauffman (Emma Goldman), Donovan McFann (Little Boy), William Shaffner (Willie Conklin), Amber J. Snead (Sarah’s friend), Robert Yacko (Henry Ford and Admiral Peary); and an ensemble including Nick Adorno, Marliss Amiea, Brandon Armstrong, Patrick Batiste, Remmie Bourgeois, Brandon Burks, James Campbell, Matthew Carvin, Michael Coleman, Chanel Edwards- Frédérick, Desiree Gillespie, Jenna Gillespie, Devon Hadsell, Joshua Hamilton, Jimmy Hippenstiel, Melinda Koen, David Lynn, Melanie Mockobey, Julie Morgentaler, Tracy Rowe Mutz, Dino Nicandros, Sharie Nitkin, Brandon Pohl, Kirklyn Robinson, Natalie Sachse, Kim Taylor, Christine Tucker and Josh Wise.

At the heart of “Ragtime” is the love story of African American ragtime musician Coalhouse Walker Jr. and Sarah, a woman he meets while playing in a Harlem nightclub. Rufus Bonds, Jr. and Daebreon Poiema will tear at your heartstrings and perhaps have you reaching for tissues as Coalhouse and Sarah’s tale of prejudice and injustice unfolds. But somehow every step they take forward to create a better life for themselves and their son takes them two steps back. When Coalhouse is confronted by local fireman Willie Conklin (William Shaffner) who refuses to let him drive past the firehouse because of his race and then encourages the destruction of Coalhouse’s Model T Ford, the battle begins that drives Coalhouse’s desire for justice throughout the musical. With a magnificent voice and stage presence that demands attention, Bonds thoroughly embodies Coalhouse and shares his courageous spirit even when the odds are against him.

Director T.J. Dawson says “Ragtime” is a thrillingly haunting experience. The audience will feel they’re a part of it. It’s their story.” Certainly my family of Eastern European Jewish immigrants is well represented in the show by Gary Patent as Tateh and Brooke Besikof as his Little Girl. Himself a descendant of immigrants, Patent sings from his soul sharing the anguish of so many immigrants caught in a new world that confronted them with prejudice and hard times they never expected to have to endure. All Tateh wants is a better life for his daughter in America, but it eludes him, leaving him a frustrated man selling silhouettes from a pushcart. After finding inspiration to succeed from immigrant Harry Houdini (Gary Brintz), Tateh vows to leave the tenements of the lower East Side to find a better life. After struggling for years, he finally seizes an opportunity thanks to his Little Girl and winds up creating his own American Dream.

But for those who had already achieved their own American Dream, the arrival of immigrants and African Americans to their neighborhood was greeted with distrust and downright hostility. Father, Mother, Younger Brother, Little Boy, and Grandfather represent the white New Rochelle upper class; good Christians who often forget their humanity when faced with anyone different from themselves, reflecting the morals of many in early 20th Century society. Craig McEldowney and Christanna Rowader share the struggle Father and Mother face in accepting their world is changing. Rowader stunningly sums up their lives while singing a rousing “Back to Before” about shedding her dependency on her husband and his conservative ways, giving us a glimpse of the modern women who emerged in America during the 1920s.

Tyler MicLean portrays Mother’s Younger Brother, a lost soul searching for meaning in his life. After finally realizing his love for “The Crime of the Century” victim and Vaudeville star Evelyn Nesbitt (Jeanette Dawson) will never be returned, he wanders into a rally on “The Night that Goldman Spoke at Union Square.” Thanks to the rousing speech by Emma Goldman (Jean Kauffman) against the industrialists she feels are holding back the working class, Younger Brother finds his purpose in life is speaking up for the underdog, which eventually leads him to assist Coalhouse on his road to achieve justice.

A favorite lighter moment in “Ragtime” occurs when Father (Craig McEldowney) takes Little Boy (Donovan McFann) to a baseball game, telling him it is a place for well-mannered men. But what they find are loud and obnoxious immigrants in the grandstands singing the celebratory “What A Game” during which they teach Little Boy to cuss and spit, much to Father’s dismay. It becomes very apparent to Father the world has changed a lot in the year he was gone travelling with Admiral Peary (Robert Yacko).

Kudos go out to the entire creative team for bringing this remarkable production to life with such soul and spirit, especially director T.J. Dawson who serves as 3-D Theatricals’ Executive Producer and Artistic Director, Musical Director Julie Lamoureux for the glorious harmonies throughout the show, and Choreography team Dana Solimando and Esteven Valdez for their eye-popping triple ensemble numbers. Spectacular sceneenhancing lighting designed by Jean-Yves Tessier on a movable multi-level set provided by Fullerton and Citrus College combine to make this production magical from start to finish.

Final performances of “Ragtime” at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 E. Manhattan Blvd. in Redondo Beach take place on Friday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. Ticket Prices range from $35 to $65. Online Ticketing is available at: www.3dtshows.com. Group and student discounts are also available. The remote box office can be reached at (714) 589-2770, Ext. 1. Tickets are available on sale two hours prior to performances at the theater box office.

For more show information, please visit http://www.Pippin-TheMusical.com/Tour.

“Ragtime” brings musical magic to stage