Posts Tagged Lynn Ahrens

Ragtime: Play Review


Terrence Mcnally’s musical masterpiece “Ragtime” at theatreworks in Mountain View, based on adaptation of Doctorow’s incisive novel, is directed by Theatreworks’ founder, Robert Kelly with haunting music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. 

Doctorow’s sweeping semi-historical novel centers around the 1908 to 1913 time frame when the American dream was just taking shape; a time when people were beginning to raise their voices against capitalism and class, gender and race differences. The story weaves through experiences of three fictional families. In one instance, ironically when the father goes off on a yearlong expedition to the Arctic, it is the mother, his wife, whose eyes open to a wider world. Whereas in Harlem, a talented black pianist is reunited with his true love and the couple hopes to raise together their infant son, only find their dreams dashed, time after time, by racism, injustice, and violence. 

These heartrending fictional stories intersect and weave through the performance, mixing with some of the factual stories of famous figures from history such as Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington and J. P. Morgan. At the turn of the century, when novel ideas fueled by socialism and anarchism were calling for equality and equal opportunities, there was another revolution in process that impacted transportation and eventually helped transform the agricultural economies into more equitable and prosperous industrial ones. Through the technology and process innovation that came with the assembly line in the making of Model T, Henry Ford paid higher wages to the workers and delivered a simple, reliable and affordable car that an American of average means could afford. . 

This was however, also a time when the calls for equality did not amount to much. Ragtime centers around the heartache of quashed love, dashed dreams, violent injustice, and quietly smoldering anger that will eventually bring about massive transformation from the ashes of those who perished, seeking and fighting for justice. Understandable as the impatience and hunger for change is at these times, such a peek into history is also a lesson in patience for patience is most challenging when we are on a cusp of transformation, as we may be right now, perhaps.

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Once On This Island – Play Review


Theatreworks Artistic Director, Robert Kelley has done a stunningly job in directing the musical, “Once on this Island”, originally from the Tony Award winning creators of Ragtime.  This musical springs from a Caribbean legend about a little orphan girl, Ti Moune (Khalia Davis), whose parents die in a horrible storm that she survives.   She is adopted by the peasant couple, Mama Euralie & Tonton Julian (Dawn L. Troupe & Berwick Haynes) and raised in the village where everyone dances with abandon, sings with everything they’ve got, uses herbs to heal, lives in harmony with nature, and seeks to appease the Gods of death, earth, water, and love (Max Kumangai, Safiya Fredericks, Omari Tau, and Adrienne Muller).  Entire cast is superb and performs beautifully.  I, particularly loved Adrienne Muller.theatreworks 1

Ti Moune grows into a gorgeous and spunky young lady (Salisha Thomas).  She continues to be haunted by the death of her parents and wonders what her purpose in life might be for which the Gods might have meant for her to live.  She rescues a wealthy aristocrat from a near fatal car crash.  She cleans his wounds, applies ointments, and keeps steadfast vigil, for him to recover.  She regards him as the love of her life and comes to believe that the Gods kept her alive, so that she may help him heal and survive.

This timeless tale is filled with joy, romance, adventure, entrenched prejudices, and heartache.  All human feelings find expression in amazing lyrics (by Lynn Ahrens) with heart pulsating, irresistible Caribbean drum beats, (by Stephen Flaherty).  William Liberatore is the Musical Director.  He was also musical director for absolutely fabulous production of “Little Women” http://bit.ly/1cmVLl6 at Theatreworks, in December, 2013.

The credit for making this musical a spell binding on-stage performance, goes to the Stage Manager Randall K Lum, Assistant Stage Manager Jannette Cote, Scenic Designer, Joe Ragey, Costume Designer, Cathleen Edwards, and Lighting Designer, Pamila Z. Gray.  Together they have created magic, on stage.  The scenes come alive with ferocious storm, enchanting jungle with frogs and trees, and beautiful village with little lanterns that contrasts with the life of the aristocrat lover, in the city.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org

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