Orpheus Theatre’s Ragtime: Still True Today as it Was 100 Years Ago

Photos by Alan Dean Photography

Based on the award-winning historical novel by author E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime the musical is a narrative of integration, racism, police brutality, bureaucratic indifference, love and loss that is as true today as it was 100 years ago. In fact, leaving the theatre I overhead an older lady ahead of me exclaim to her friend:

“Trump needs to see that so that he gets it”.

The story follows the arrival in America of a Jewish Immigrant and his daughter, the hardship endured by a black American musician and his lover, the changing roles for females in society and the lack of sympathy by the ruling white class. The music’s syncopated beats are a metaphor for the social change but ironically, the beat repeats itself — implying that the change is not seamless and requires many retries.

Originating in the same decade as the production takes place, Orpheus Musical Theatre touts itself as an amateur, not-for-profit group but this production leaves you wondering if this is not "alternative facts".

Aside from the 20-piece orchestra that brings the performance to life, the strong cast includes stellar performances by Vivian Melsness in the lead role of mother, Colin Samojlenko as the son, Axandre Lemours who plays Coalhouse Walker Jr., Paul Melsness in the role of the rags-to-riches immigrant Tateh, Carmella Gehrels from the Harlem Ensemble and Tzeitel Abrego who portrays Sarah.

Ottawa Life spoke with Abrego, an Ottawa native who is back in town working on an album with a local studio. A graduate of NYU, in Vocal Performance — Music Theatre, she was pleasantly surprised that this “rarely produced” musical was being staged and just had to audition.

Lucky for us, the timing worked out and Ottawan’s have the opportunity to hear Tzeitel’s goose bump yielding performance. Tzeitel commented that even though her fellow cast members have full-time jobs they, “come to rehearsal ready to work and they have such respect for the craft.” She added that she is, “very proud that (Ragtime) is taking place here in Ottawa”.

Mimicking the syncopated rhythms of the music, the end is presented similarly to the opening scene yet nothing is the same. Society has changed and for those who open their hearts and embraced, everything works out. Now, if only real Americans could accept multiculturalism and globalization.

You have until Sunday June 11, 2017 to take in Orpheus Musical Theatre’s production of Ragtime at Nepean’s Centrepointe Theatre.

For tickets, visit: centrepointetheatre.ca