‘Ragtime the Musical’ soars at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

The show was masterfully directed. The voices of the singers were of Broadway quality.

In a celebration of 25 years of Broadway quality musicals in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ragtime the Musical lit up the stage at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts with emotional performances by Jacquez Linder-Long, Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, Alan Hoffman, Kadejah Oné, and Adrianne Hick.

This show was masterfully directed by Patrick A’Hearn, Riverside’s producing artistic director. The 25-year-old, Tony award-winning show, is based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow and has a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Carson Eubank’s music direction and conducting helped this musical soar.

Nicole Vanessa Ortiz as Sarah Jacquez Linder-Long as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in ‘Ragtime the Musical.’ Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Ragtime the Musical is a show that, particularly in the second act, probes race issues. Set in the early 20th century, the plot revolves around characters from three distinct worlds: African American, white American, and Jewish American. The stories center on a stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant, and a daring young Harlem musician. These three characters are connected by their courage, compassion, and faith in the future.

The show’s title alludes to ragtime music, which jazz great Scott Joplin popularized. Ragtime music was popular in red-light districts in many American cities between 1897 and 1918. Historical figures such as J.P. Morgan, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Evelyn Nesbit, and Emma Goldman turn up throughout the show.

The voices of the singers were of Broadway quality. An amazing standout for me was Nicole Vanessa Ortiz, who played Sarah, the beloved of piano-playing ragtime musician Coalhouse Walker Jr., played by the multi-talented Jacquez Linder-Long. Ortiz’s “Your Daddy’s Son” and her duet with Linder-Long on “Wheels of a Dream” were emotional dynamite.

Tateh, a Jewish Latvian immigrant, was played by the boisterous Alan Hoffman. Tateh went through an incredible character arc on the way to his success in America. I liked Hoffman’s singing in “Success,” “A Shtetl Iz Amereke,” “Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.,” and the hopeful “Gliding.” Notably, as his character changed, so did his look — dramatically.

I adored Linder-Long’s performances in his emotional scenes. He stood out in the tunes “Sarah Brown Eyes,” “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy,” and the defiant “Justice.”

Left: Joey Vogel as the Little Boy and Adrianne Hick as Mother; right: Alan Hoffman as Tateh and Catherine Mayers as the Little Girl. in ‘Ragtime the Musical.’ Photos by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Adrianne Hick played Mother, who adopted Sarah and her baby into her home, with earnestness. I liked her solos in tunes such as the wrenching “Back to Before,” “Goodbye, My Love,” and “What Kind of Woman.” Brian Nabors as Father was energetic in songs such as “Journey On” and the playful, baseball-themed “What a Game.”

Sarah Mae Andersen brought comic relief to her role as historical sex symbol Evelyn Nesbit. She jazzed up the tune “The Crime of the Century” with the help of Choreographer Stephanie Wood.  Andersen had a good duet with Brendan Hale’s Harry Houdini in “Atlantic City, Part 1.”

The cast featured many standouts: Anthony Williams, who sang well in “Look What You’ve Done,” as Booker T. Washington; Chris Zavadowski as J.P. Morgan; Andrea Kahane as political anarchist Emma Goldman; Kevin Cleary as Henry Ford; Jarrett Bloom as the Younger Brother; Joseph “Joey” Vogel as the Little Boy; Ian Lane as the Grandfather; Catherine Mayers as the Little Girl; and Andy Braden as Willie Conklin.

The ensemble in ‘Ragtime the Musical.’ Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

The wooden set involved many scenery wagons and had a centerstage section that revolved, all designed by Scenic Designer Frank Foster. The black-and-white movie clips that Michael Jarett projected, featuring various cast members, impressed me.

Properties Master and Set Dresser Claire Flores supervised the construction of Coalhouse’s gorgeous Model T Ford. Costume designer Kyna Chilcot dressed the cast in mood-setting period costumes.

The music was flawless; however, at times the volume of the orchestra obscured the sung lyrics.

Ragtime the Musical is a fitting addition to Riverside’s roster of shows this year. As A’Hearn wrote, “We all get to do what we love to do here at Riverside because all of you love coming here to support us.” For families and music fans, Ragtime the Musical is a must-see.

Running Time: Approximately three hours with a 15-minute intermission

Ragtime the Musical plays through May 7, 2023, at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts, 95 Riverside Parkway, Fredericksburg, VA. For tickets, call (540) 370-4300 or purchase them online. 

Adult Dinner & Show – $75 (plus applicable taxes)
Seniors (65+) Dinner & Show – $70 (plus applicable taxes)
Adult Show Only – $60
Seniors (65+) Show Only – $55
Children (3-12) Show Only – $55
There will be a $5.00 online processing fee added per ticket.

COVID Safety: Staff wears masks when working the floor (meal-service portion). Patrons are not required to be masked in the facility; but if patrons want to wear a mask, they are welcome to.

Ragtime the Musical
Book by Terrence McNally
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Based on the novel Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Mother: Adrianne Hick
Sarah: Nicole Vanessa Ortiz
Coalhouse Walker, Jr.: Jacquez Linder-Long
Tateh: Alan Hoffman
Father: Brian Nabors
Younger Brother: Jarrett Bloom
Emma Goldman: Andrea Kahane
Evelyn Nesbit: Sarah Mae Andersen
Sarah’s Friend: Kadejah Oné
Willie Conklin, Ensemble: Andy Braden
Grandfather, Ensemble: Ian Lane
Booker T. Washington, Ensemble: Anthony Williams
Harry Houdini, Ensemble, u/s – Younger Brother: Brendan Hale
J.P. Morgan, Ensemble, u/s – Tateh: Chris Zavadowski
Henry Ford, Ensemble, u/s – Father: Kevin Cleary
Ensemble, u/s – Mother: Elizabeth C. Butler
Ensemble, u/s – Sarah’s Friend: Nancy M. Crawley
Ensemble: Colleen Kleveno
Ensemble, u/s – Sarah: Nikia Lee
Ensemble: Sally Roehl
Ensemble, u/s – Emma Goldman: Thea Simpson
Ensemble, u/s – Coalhouse Walker, Jr.: Maury Allen Williams
Ensemble, Dance Captain: Stephanie Wood
Little Boy: Joseph “Joey” Vogel
Little Girl: Catherine Mayers

Produced and Direction: Patrick A’Hearn
Music Direction: Carson Eubank
Choreography: Stephanie Wood
Scenic Design: Frank Foster
Lighting and Projection Design: Michael Jarett
Costume Design: Kyna Chilcot
Assistant Stage Manager: Jennifer Rose Hardin
Sound Design: J. Pat Bragg
Properties Master and Set Dresser: Claire Flores


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