Review: Ragtime at the Charing Cross Theatre

Having beamed at his most recent production of Titanic — a 5* review from us — director Thom Southerland returns to the same venue with a revival of Ragtime.

Opening with the brassy chords that are iconic for anyone lucky enough to have seen this show before, it became clear from the start that this production of Ragtime was to be an ensemble piece. It does, of course, having its leading stars of which soar individually, but the fine talents of 24 actor-musicians make this evening at the theatre more impressive that we could ever fathom. And yet, this story, however dated in its time, seems uncomfortably relevant as the US election draws ever closer.

Ragtime weaves together the story of three groups in America. One, a white, middle class family in New Rochelle. The second, the family of Coalhouse Walker Jr, a black Harlem musician and the mother of his child. And finally, Tateh, a Jewish immigrant that’s come to America with his daughter in search of a new life. But as the people move to the rhythm and rhyme of Ragtime, will the shores of America give them all they need it to?

Anita Louise Combe and Earl Carpenter, as devoted middle class parents — and both of delightful vocal form — pound the beat of this stunning score. Each with privilege on their side, they both fight their own prejudice and problems to find happiness and equality for those they care most for — however long it might take their respective characters to get there. Anita’s act two rendition of Back to Before the knock-out moment of the night — complete perfection! 

Joined by Ako Mitchell as wronged Coalhouse Walker, who goes in search of justice following the death of the mother to his child, Ragtime soon becomes to feel like a motion picture of many halves. Add in Gary Tushaw as immigrant and later film director Tateh, the ladder of US citizen to immigrant stands tall in front of him as he looks for his day in the land of dreams. 

Although falling victim to the structural challenges of the Charing Cross Theatre — it on occasion feeling less of a theatre and more of a tunnel when cast members are found at the back of the stage — the intimacy of this lavish scenic design is effective throughout. Ditching ever-changing scenic movement for a rolling piano, it’s much  to the credit of this company this story hits home to quite the levels it does. Personal? By-heck it is! 

During its outing in New York, Ragtime stepped aside to the likes of The Lion King for the Tony Award that night. Although not all was lost, the musical found itself in second position to the admiration of Broadway audiences. However, this latest production is anything but a runner up. In fact, it’s most certainly a winner on almost every level.

They’ve reached that day, and Ragtime is here. Enjoy a show that’ll give you an evening at the theatre you won’t forget in a long, long time!

GT gives Ragtime at the Charing Cross Theatre — 4/5

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