As one of the interchangeable synthesizer keyboard players in the pit, I was fortunate enough to catch one of the Ragtime shows with a few of my friends. The second Saturday evening show was absolutely PACKED, I couldn’t believe how many people came out to the show/shows (4000? That’s ridiculous.). So a huge hand to the PR team and everybody for promoting Ragtime, it was unbelievable how many people it drew and how pivotal it was in bringing awareness to the arts at Duke.

As the lights dimmed and the routine “silence all electronic devices and your children” line generated chuckles from the crowd, I gazed intently at the breathtaking set waiting for the musical to start. As I was watching the musical I found myself paying attention more to the technical aspects of the production more than the story of Ragtime itself, but I did catch many lines here and there that gave me little details of the story I didn’t know before. One of the very first things I noticed about the performance was the diverse and endless use of the set. I was amazed at how perfect and how different the set looked when the story moved from the ships to the house and then to the library. It was amazing how such a stationary structure was transformed into a pivotal and dynamic part of the performance. Next, I noticed the music (of course) and it was great! As I was watching the show I couldn’t help but think about the various times I would be entering the orchestra with my bells and whistles (literally), but I tried my hardest to repress such thoughts. There were lots of comments about the music being too loud and people not hearing the cast during the earlier performances, but during this performance the music complemented the performers perfectly. During the dance numbers the horns were powerful, exciting, and lively, but during the more subtle pieces the violins displayed a tranquility that accompanied the emotion of the piece extremely well. Sure, there were instances when I couldn’t tell what the cast was saying or I couldn’t hear some of the instruments in the pit, but overall I thought the musicality of the performance was superb.

During the intermission some slightly older (grad students maybe?) people behind me decided to leave, as they “had enough of ragtime,”and I felt incredibly sorry for them for missing the second and much more integral part of the musical. But, the toddler sitting behind me seemed to be enjoying herself as she constantly made comments about how the characters were ‘sad’ and would laugh at the most inappropriate instances.

After the show I couldn’t help but overhear all of the positive comments about the show, “It was amazing! It was soooooooooooooooooooooo good! Mother was gorgeous!” -things of that sort. So in all, it seemed like the majority of the Duke community enjoyed the production of Ragtime. When I asked my friends what they’re favorite part of the musical was one of them said ‘What a Game’ (He was a huge baseball fan-typical) and other couldn’t decide, but kept humming the theme on our walk to the Loop.

Strike was a bittersweet and weary ending to Ragtime, but it was really interesting seeing how the set was constructed and how dedicated everyone was both before, during, and at the end of this production for me. It was not so great, however, spending hours erasing pencil marks from the scores, particularly Glen’s (one of the lead pianists) pencil-filled score (no offense Glen). So as the era of Ragtime ends, I find myself lost in a sea of finals and Ragtime music on Spotify. This performance has been a huge part of my Duke career and I know that in the future I will attend and hope to be a part of more theater productions.

-Jason Ni

Non-production hours: Pit Orchestra Rehearsal, and Strike (4.5 hours I believe?).