The sprawling canvas of E.L. Doctorow’s novel “Ragtime” would appear too complex and enormous to translate to the musical stage, yet the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie has proven itself up to the challenge.
In its thrilling opening, three different societal elements of America’s 1902 melting pot square off, while real-life characters like J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington and Harry Houdini help frame the stories.
This Oklahoma premiere is the most ambitious production attempted by the Pollard in its 20 years, and the results are often breathtakingly impressive.
Director Timothy Stewart and choreographer Jennifer Rosson move the show at a pace that flies by, in spite of a longer running time. Although the score isn’t a tap-your-toe variety with memorable hit tunes, it is richly varied and served up beautifully.
It’s a treat to watch Jerome Stevenson as he flows from high-stepping exuberance to tragic heartbreak. Doug Ford has great appeal and presence as Tateh, the Jewish immigrant.
There are too many fine performances to list, although Danielle Coody, Michael James and Delanie Brewer are standouts.
“Ragtime” serves up an astounding range of emotions, from satirical laughter to societal tragedy, and judging from the full house’s standing ovation opening night, Pollard succeeded in delivering them. “Linda McDonald