Most of us involved in Ragtime this year, both cast and crew, are not new to musical theatre. We all know that show after show, your current show is often your new favorite musical. For me, that is again the case with Ragtime, but my affection for this show feels so different from my love for all of the shows I have done before.

My experience through the performances has been incredible. After we finished building the set, my job with the show was done, so I volunteered to help with costuming during the run of the show. I was glad to finally interact with the cast that I had been hearing about during weekly production meetings for the past two months. I knew those who had been involved in Company and The Mystery of Edwin Drood earlier this year, but the cast also includes many new faces that I am now grateful to have met. Knowing the cast has always been my struggle with technical theatre. I never feel fully included in the production since my job, building the sets, is not one that makes me essential to be present during the run of each show. I have to go out of my way to find a job to do during the performances, and the actors often don’t see me as a necessary element in the show.

My appreciation for Ragtime skyrocketed through the last two weeks of dress/tech rehearsals and performances. I watched a few shows from the audience, and the majority of the shows from off stage right, where I sat against the wall, staring in awe at this amazing production. As I explained in my last blog post, I am thoroughly thrilled with every piece of our production of Ragtime. Beyond the words and music written in the libretto, I love the costumes, actors, set, props, lighting, and blocking that make our production unique. Even after watching the show countless times, I still cannot make it through the second act without tears streaming down my face. For awhile, I could not really pinpoint what made me so emotional over this show. Many of the songs that make me cry without fail are not particularly sad, nor are they the refreshing joyful songs that also tend to be tear-jerkers. I had decided at one point that it was the cast that made me cry; it was the sweet blend of Dominique’s voice with Martiavius’s/Jordan’s, it was the passion with which Lindsay sings “He Wanted to Say,” it was the beauty for Allie’s voice in “Back to Before.” After watching the show over and over, I think my thoughts are not only appreciation for our actors, but also an explosion of love for the general beauty of the show.

Although I enjoy the plot of Ragtime, to me that is not the important part of the story, as odd as that seems. I see Ragtime as a painting, a glimpse of turn-of-the-century America. The storyline is a vehicle for portraying the ideas of the pursuit of the American Dream. I do love the deeply emotional songs in the show because they show the innermost feelings of people and their struggles in the era of ragtime. The songs that have become my favorites, though, I would categorize as songs that describe the American Dream– “Henry Ford,” “Wheels of a Dream,” and “What a Game.” I have heard several members of the cast and crew mention that they do not like some of the ideals suggested by the musical, and how the show handles destruction and justice. For me, though, the decisions in the musical that I don’t like do not negatively affect my vision of the show. The plot is not what is important to me. Each character, each scene, reflects ideas and contributes brushstrokes to what I see as a painting comprising all these ideas from progressive Victorian America. That is the beauty I see in Ragtime.