Thomas S. Wootton High School RagtimeBy Cappies • Apr 18th, 2013 • Category: Cappies
From Harry Houdini’s astonishing magic tricks to the revolutionary invention of the automobile to the historic leadership of Booker T. Washington, the turn of the 20th century brought both excitement and chaos to America. All of these elements are exemplified in Thomas S. Wootton High School’s musical production of Ragtime.
With collaboration from Stephen Flaherty (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), and Terrence McNally (book), the musical Ragtime, based on the 1975 E.L. Doctorow novel, was first brought to Broadway in 1998 with a two-year run and was revived in 2009-2010 with a production that first opened at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It tells a complex story of three social groups with distinct backgrounds, represented by a Harlem musician, upper class white suburbanites, and Jewish immigrants. The plot unfolds as their stories intertwine, revealing the emotional and social stresses at the turn of the 20th century in America.
Wootton’s production was anchored by the exceptional singing of not only the standout performers, but also the cast as a whole during large ensemble numbers. Particularly noteworthy was the entire cast’s performance of “Till We Reach That Day” that concluded the first act with an abundance of energy and powerful harmonies.
The ensemble powerhouse singing was matched by that of Elgin Martin, who portrayed Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Ragtime musician who becomes violent after suffering racial injustices. Martin depicted Coalhouse with refreshing enthusiasm, and his beaming smile and tall stature brought his animated character to life. “Make Them Hear You” and “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy” were just a few of the notable songs that displayed his impressive range. Similarly impressive was Shenayra Quiles, who portrayed Coalhouse’s long-lost love, Sarah. Quiles’ pure-toned voice rang through the auditorium during her soprano solos, resulting in energetic applause from the audience every time.
Sarah Kinney’s portrayal of Mother was also outstanding. Kinney accurately captured the emotion of an upper class society woman who believes in civil rights, with passionate acting and melodic singing. Kayli Modell gave an energetic, exciting performance of Evelyn Nesbitt, a self-absorbed, famous actress at the time. Modell’s signature squeal resulted in peals of laughter from the audience. While some singing was pitchy and unsynchronized at times, the overall production was not affected.
Wootton’s simplistic set, which had multiple levels and platforms, allowed for every member of the enormous cast to be seen at all times. The eloquent lighting effectively illuminated the performers and contributed to the emotional roller coaster of the show. While there were some problems with static, the sound crew did an impressive job of navigating the microphones. Considering the difficulty of the score and the extensive amount of musical numbers, the pit orchestra was very impressive and added an exciting element to the show.
Wootton’s production of Ragtime was full of emotional journeys, exhilarating personalities, and impressive technicalities. The energy was consistent throughout the show, and ultimately proved that America is a place where dreams come true if you follow your “wheels of a dream.”
by Rachel Mayman of Langley High School
Photos by Erica Land
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