Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 8:22 pm | Fair 64º

 
 
 
 

‘Ragtime’ the Musical Still Magical

PCPA Theaterfest's scintillating revival includes a cast that exudes bite, wit and talent.

When E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime was published in 1975, hailed immediately as a major literary work, it would have been hard to picture it as a Broadway musical. But as PCPA Theaterfest’s scintillating revival at the Solvang Festival Theatre shows, Ragtime the musical hasn’t lost its magic.

The cast of 49, including guest stars and members of the summer theater company, shows plenty of bite, wit and talent in the musical, which runs three hours with intermission.

Heading the cast, as the outraged hero Coalhouse Walker Jr., is David St. Louis. Along with an Equity card, he is possessed of a rich baritone singing voice and acting skills honed on Broadway and in film and television. Coalhouse Walker Jr. is a commanding figure, as he goes from a self-confident young black man courting his girl to a fugitive demanding justice at the point of his gun.

The second pivotal character is Mother, here glowingly played and sung by Elizabeth Stuart, also an Equity player. Mother is a genteel, sheltered white woman in New Rochelle, N.Y., shortly after the turn of the last century. She also is the heroic heart of the story, changing and growing as she perceives injustices small and large — visited on her by her husband, and on Coalhouse by just about the whole world.

The third of these valiant figures is Tateh, the timid Russian-Jewish immigrant who brings his little girl to the savage wilds of New York, played with initial restraint by Andrew Philpot. Those who have read Doctorow’s book, or seen the film version, know Tateh’s magnificent transformation, from cowed immigrant to a genuine Hollywood mogul, rejoicing in his American career. It’s worth the price of admission just to see Philpot’s emergence.

Because Doctorow’s novel spills over with characters both fictional and historically real, the musical has too many fine performances to credit them all in this space. Some who must be mentioned: Father, played on Saturday by Billy Breed, kindly but oblivious to the changes around him; Younger Brother, the budding revolutionary portrayed by the always energetic Michael Jenkinson; Little Boy (Mother and Father’s son), played by Michael White, who is still a child but is also a polished actor; Sarah, Coalhouse’s one true love, acted and sung by the beguiling Mekia Cox; Anarchist Emma Goldman, stirring and fearless, played by Bree Murphy; and Evelyn Nesbit, the “Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” who caused a sensational society scandal, jealousy and a murder. She is played by the petite, beautiful Keira O’Neil, fetching in a corset and black stockings and not much else.

Mark Booher directed Ragtime, which was adapted by playwright Terence McNally, with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens.

Ragtime plays through Aug. 24 at Solvang’s open-air venue. It’s a charming theater. At night it can become semi-Arctic. Most audience members bring coats, cushions and blankets, which can also be rented. Tickets are available at www.pcpa.org.

Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >