A brilliant play that could be considered one of MNSU’s best
Ragtime received a standing ovation from every one of its audience members. The tear-jerking, awe-inspiring musical left theatre-goers amazed with a new perspective on race, immigration and love.
The musical takes place in 1906. Many were immigrating to the United States and racial tensions were high. Many worked to understand and build bridges, while others worked to tear them down.
The show is about three different groups of people: the suburban white families, the African Americans, and Eastern European immigrants. The story begins when a black baby is found buried in a suburban white family’s garden.
The baby, abandoned by his mother, is taken in by the suburban family while the man of the house is away. The mother of the child, Sarah, is soon found, and the family takes her in, allowing the two of them to live in the attic.
Sara’s lover, Coalhouse Walker Jr., does not know about his son and comes to the house begging for her to come back to him. He finds out about the existence of his son, and is enamored by both of them.
The man of the house later comes home to find that his wife has taken in the two and allows for Walker to come to the house, begging for Sara’s love, every Sunday, and that this has been going on for about five months. Angry, he fights with his wife and bickers about the illegitimate child and his mother in the family’s home.
Eventually, Walker persuades Sarah to go with him, travel across the country, and raise their son, but they run into trouble along the way. While attempting to drive to another city, a white fire chief threatened Walker and Sarah, stole his Model T, and vandalized it.
Walker was appalled and angered by these events, and planned his revenge. His wife attempted to help him by talking with the President of the United States, but was mistaken to be an assassin by the trigger-happy secret service, and was beaten, trampled, and killed. Walker, stricken with grief, was enraged and began a rampage against the people who wronged him.
Meanwhile, an Eastern European family consisting of a father, Tateh, and his daughter have made their way to the U.S. on a crowded boat in the hopes of finding a new life and starting over. The father struggles to make ends meet at first. He realized that his passion for art and silhouettes was not enough to feed his family.
Later, Tateh and his daughter meet the suburban family. At first, the family judges him for his ragged appearance, but later in the show, he becomes more successful, and finds that his passion is filming and making movies. He and the suburban mother, grow close to one another, and their children grow close as well.
While this is taking place, Walker is on a killing rampage, burning down fire stations and shooting firefighters. He demands a new, fixed-up Model T, and the life of the fire chief that vandalized it leading to the tragedy that struck his family.
Walker and several others take over J.P. Morgan’s library with a hostage in the hopes of receiving his demands. Booker T. Washington arrives at the library to talk some sense into Walker.
Walker listens to Washington, and is promised by the white suburban father that he and his men will be safely allowed to leave the library if they back down. Walker agrees and allows his men to leave first. The moment Walker leaves the library he is shot and killed.
The play ends with the father of the suburban family dying in a boat attack and the mother remarrying Tateh. They continue to raise Walker’s son as a diverse family, and they find peace, love, and acceptance in one another.
The costumes for the show demonstrated the different classes well. Their design and accuracy added to the authenticity of the show. The lighting and set design worked hand in hand to add to the beautiful ambiance.
The show speaks on many levels. The powerful acting choices, stunning voices, and both incredible and somber choreography created a wonderful show that cannot be topped. The audience was in tears by show’s end.
The casting for the different parts of the show, especially the white suburban mother, Tateh, Walker, and Sara was perfect. The actors became the roles. Their vocals were beautiful, ringing in the auditorium. One performer stood out among the others.
Mitchell Douglas Evans, a junior Bachelor of Fine Arts Musical Theatre candidate, was the true star of this show. His incredible vocals shocked and impressed the audience. His superior acting and graceful dances were unbeatable. It is no wonder he was the 2017-2018 recipient of the Jane F. Earley Scholarship. Evans is a phenomenal performer.
The musical tackled many parts of history with ease and should be regarded as one of the best musicals Minnesota State University, Mankato has ever seen. All of the elements of the show were executed perfectly, and the hard topics the show presented were tackled with ease.
Audience members left with a new understanding of the importance of acceptance, understanding, and peace. The musical came at a perfect time for our country as immigration and race have become key talking points in politics. The director, actors, and crew should all be proud of their outstanding performance, and the wonderful message and portrayal of the show.