Ragtime, the Musical is an epic tale of a young America played out in song and dance. It paints a nostalgic and powerful portrait of life at the turn of the 20th century. The musical melds three distinct stories that poignantly illustrate history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair, and love and hate.

The Tony Award-winning score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Seussical) is just as diverse as the melting pot of America that it seeks to re-create, drawing upon traditional Jewish folk sounds, Vaudeville’s outrageous style and Scott Joplin to invoke the enlivened spirit of Harlem.

Ragtime plays the Marian Theatre from July 10-26, then the Festival Theater Aug. 1-24. Please note that it contains coarse language.

Featured is equity guest artist David St. Louis, whose credits include Broadway productions of Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar and Harlem Song, numerous regional theater credits, and film and TV appearances on Law and Order, One Life to Live and Trigger Effect. St. Louis will be playing Coalhouse Walker Jr.

The production also features resident artists Elizabeth Stuart as Mother, Michael Jenkinson as Younger Brother, Andrew Philpot as Tateh, Corey Jones as Booker T. Washington and Peter S. Hadres as Henry Ford.

The design team headed by director Mark Booher includes choreographer Michael Jenkinson, musical director Callum Morris, scenic designer Heidi Hoffer, costume designer Misti Bradford, lighting designer Jen ‘Z’ Zornow, sound designer Matt Carpenter and stage manager Christine Collins.

According to Mark Booher, Ragtime is a classic American story that puts into a powerful musical form the great forces of U.S. culture, the grandeur of the American spirit and the epic scale of the human struggle.

“The story Ragtime , like the musical form, is full of surprises — unexpected rhythms, unexpected sensibilities and unexpected connections.”

American novelist E.L. Doctorow created his unique novel, Ragtime, in 1975. Blending three fictional U.S. families with various historical figures from 1902 to 1917 into an epic narrative, Doctorow explored the U.S. industrial machine, the mythology of the American dream and the rising tensions of race, immigration, World War I and the future of the American family and national identity.

The musical drama debuted in Toronto, Ontario, in 1996, traveled to Los Angeles in 1997 and finally opened on Broadway in January 1988, when it was acknowledged as one of the most ambitious musicals ever produced. From the range of musical styles to the size of cast (originally 59 — PCPA Theaterfest‘s production includes 45!) to the complexity of three major storylines (a businessman-explorer and his dissatisfied wife, black composer Coalhouse Walker and his love, Sarah, and a Jewish immigrant Tateh and his daughter) the production was nothing short of epic.

The PCPA summer season includes:

» Godspell, now playing through July 27 in Solvang.

» The Heart’s Desire plays in Santa Maria through June 28 then performs in rotating rep with Godspell in Solvang through July 26.

» The Imaginary Invalid plays Aug. 7-23 in Santa Maria, then Aug. 28 through Sept. 7 in Solvang.

» Hot Mikado plays the Marian Theatre Aug. 29 through Sept. 7, then Solvang’s Festival Theater Sept. 12-28.

» The Weir plays only in the Severson Theatre on the Allan Hancock College Campus in Santa Maria, Sept. 12 through Oct. 5. (The Heart’s Desire and The Weir contain adult language.)

Tickets for summer are on sale now. Call 805.922.8313 between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, or purchase tickets online at www.pcpa.org. Information about group sales for 12 or more people may be obtained by sending an e-mail to groups@pcpa.org or by calling 800.PCPA.123.

Now in its 44th season, PCPA Theaterfest is the Central Coast’s resident professional theater company, and has infused the national theater scene with thousands of trained actors and theatrical technicians over the years in its conservatory.

Craig Shafer represents PCPA Theaterfest.