Bradley University Theater opened their 2011-2012 season on Friday with "Ragtime, The Musical".
The musical is based on the E. L. Doctorow novel of the same name. With an epic storyline and a cast of dozens, the show is a huge undertaking for any amateur theater group.
I am pleased to say Director Steve Snyder and his large cast deliver one of the finest productions recently seen on the Hartmann stage.
"Ragtime" is a snapshot of America during the first decade of the twentieth century. The show explores issues of racism, Labor strife, immigration and assimilation, as well as personal human relationships.
It intertwines the stories of three different groups - a wealthy WASP family, a group of European immigrants, and a group of African Americans seeking the American dream in an often hostile environment.
The cast of characters includes actual historical figures such as Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman, and Harry Houdini.
Th show opens with a huge bang. The lavish title song introduces the entire company in a wonderful and catchy number. Featuring thirty-some actors in a perfectly synchronized performance, this opening number alone is well worth the price of admission.
...and it sets the tone for the two and half hours of excellent theater to follow.
While there is a range of vocal talent, each role is, without exception, well acted here.
With such a large number of great performances it is difficult to acknowledge just a few, but some of the top performances are as follows.
Chloe Dzielak stands out as Mother, the upper class matriarch who chooses a different course of compassion than her conservative husband. Ms. Dzielak has a beautiful voice and her acting is simply perfect. Her rendition of "Back to Before" is a knockout!
Morgan Green and Cecil Blutcher are excellent as the star-crossed lovers Sarah and Coalhouse. Their chemistry makes their performances even better.
Dakota Kuhlman is great as Tateh, the Latvian Jewish immigrant who captures the American dream for himself and his daughter.
Sarah Tilford is excellent and brings Emma Goldman to life. As Booker T. Washington, Julian Stroop shows serious maturity as an actor.
The set is simple yet functional and perfectly suited to the production. Costuming is some of the best and most elaborate that I have seen at Bradley.
The orchestra, directed and conducted by Julie A. Clemons, is wonderful.
My one and only issue with the production is that the orchestra did overwhelm some of the vocal performances. None of the actors wore microphones, and a couple of the singers did not project over the music.
...a minor complaint for an excellent production.
If this opening offering is any indication, I cannot wait for the rest of the Bradley University Theatre's season!
"Ragtime" runs through October 2nd at the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts on the Bradley campus.
For tickets, contact the Box Office in the Hartmann Center at 677-2650.
You should not miss this show!