Based on the award-winning historical novel by EL Doctorow, Ragtime follows the lives of three distinct groups of people living in New York at the dawn of the 20th century. As disparate as their worlds may appear they are inexorably linked to one another and their story moves to the rhythm of the prevailing popular music of the period.
Rosalind James, Daniel Jacob, Raymond Coker, Aston New, Lauren Alexandra, Emma Beckford in Ragtime the Musical at the Landor, London Photo: Tim Parker
Originally conceived of mammoth proportions, director Robert McWhir and his creative team have pared everything down except their ambition. The result is a resounding success on many levels and despite any restrictions in scale, budget or cast this remains an epic production.
The cast of 21 appear indefatigable as they recreate the sounds, sights and syncopation of ragtime New York and its environs. This was the dawn of the age of celebrity and popular figures such as Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini and Booker T Washington illustrate the mood of the period and complement the thrust of the narrative.
Despite the ensemble nature of the piece there are several stand-out performances. Louisa Lydell as Mother and Kurt Kansley as Coalhouse Walker deliver generous performances that ground the piece with an emotional maturity. The wonderful John Barr as Tateh and particularly Rosalind James as Sarah bring passion to the fore, with James’ heart-wrenching number Your Daddy’s Son a breathtaking highlight.
McWhir’s thoughtful direction is complemented by Matthew Gould’s lively choreography and musical director, arranger and pianist George Dyer works a particular magic with a tremendous five-piece band. Not for the first time, the team at the Landor have illustrated the limitless possibilities of musical theatre on the fringe and Ragtime marks another feather in an already richly decorated cap.