By Braden Pituch
The Erie Playhouse opened up their 100th season this past Friday with the epic musical Ragtime. Directed by Almitra Clerkin, Ragtime follows the interwoven lives of three groups: an affluent suburban family, a Jewish Latvian immigrant and his daughter, and a Harlem pianist and his family as they navigate their way through the American Dream during the turn of the 20th century. The story also includes many historical figures from the time that each influences the characters in their own way.
Thanks to great performances from the whole cast and the fantastic live music provided by the orchestra, led by conductor Mike Miele, the show explodes to life right from the opening number that introduces to all the players involved and keeps the momentum going through to the finale. Special attention should also be paid to the seamless choreography and the costume design which reflects the fashion of the era.
Rachel Freenock delivers a heartfelt performance as Mother, the matriarch of a wealthy family whose life changes drastically when her husband takes a trip to the North Pole. Joe Greulich gives a great turn as the husband (Father), a man who is having a difficulty adjusting to the changing times. Rounding out their family are Little Boy (Parker Irwin with a great debut), Grandfather(Ed Moss), and Younger Brother (Riley Droney.)
Matt Fuchs brings charm to his portrayal of Latvian immigrant Tateh, a man willing to do everything he can to provide for his daughter (played by Aurora Fuchs) including even giving up his name. Fuchs really makes you feel the desperation and hope that many immigrants of that time brought with them to America.
Hayes Moses was amazing (and quite talked about during intermission) as the passionate Coalhouse Walker Jr., the ragtime pianist from Harlem. Moses brings a stage presence that demands your attention and a tremendous voice that you won’t soon forget. The duet “Wheels of a Dream” between Coalhouse and Sarah (Coalhouse’s lover played flawlessly by Krista Lamb) brought the house down towards the end of the first act.
A musical with such a large scope could easily overwhelm, but director Almitra Clerkin clearly had a vision for the show and pulled it off tremendously. This production was truly worthy of starting the Erie Playhouse’s 100th season.
Ragtime will continue its run at the Erie Playhouse through October 6th with shows starting at 7:30pm Thursday September 29th- Saturday October 1 and 2:00pm on Sunday October 2nd and at 7:30pm Wednesday October 5th-Saturday October 8th and 2:00pm Sunday October 6th.
For more information on Ragtime, including reservations and ticket information, and other upcoming productions please visit www.erieplayhouse.org