May 4, 2010

New Music Haunting Me

(photo from

Just like that tune,
Simple and clear,
I've come to hear
New music-
Breaking my heart,
Op'ning a door,
Changing the world!
New music!
I'll hear it forevermore!

So goes my favorite lines from the song New Music from the musical Ragtime. It's one of my favorite musicals because of it's sweeping score coupled with beautiful lyrics and a compelling story. I was looking forward to seeing the 2009 revival on Broadway but unfortunately didn't get a chance to see it before it closed in January 2010. As luck would have it though, the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook IL mounted a superb production of the show and have also casted Quentin Earl Darrington and Valisia LeKae. Mr. Darrington played Coalhouse while Ms. LeKae was the understudy for Sarah in the Broadway Revival.

Ragtime is based on the book by E.L Doctorow with the script written by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by the talented musical writing team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. It is set at the turn of the century in New York and involves the lives of Mother, a well off wife of an amateur explorer, Coalhouse a piano player and Tateh a Jewish immigrant from Latvia. The lives of these characters intersect when unforeseen events bring them together. It has a lot of heart and a powerful message of acceptance.

The cast is impressive. Quentin Earl Darrington has a great robust voice that he can get away with performing without a microphone. Acting wise, he had the intensity of a man fighting for what he believes in. Valisia LeKae is a dead ringer for a young Whitney Houston and has a beautiful voice. I did however find myself getting pulled out of the story when she would mix her notes instead of belting them. I did love Mark David Kaplan's (Tateh) and Max Quinlan's (Younger Brother) voices. Cory Goodrich played Mother who I also thought had a good voice although not as strong because sometimes the orchestra would drown her singing. Although she played a supporting part, I was most impressed with Summer Naomi Smart's voice who played Evelyn Nesbit. Her voice is rich and appealing and she could make her voice be playful when needed.

The Drury Lane production is set in an intimate theatre but has an impressive set design (see 1st photo) which even incorporates a working Ford Model T car that is essential in the story. Praise should also be given to the staging and choreography of the show. I love the opening when the different groups of people are being introduced. It's very dynamic. This Drury Lane production opened March 18 and will run until May 23, 2010. It's a great production not to be missed!

For information and tickets please click here.

Some photos I took that night:

The marquee from Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook IL


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