Get ready to embark on a captivating journey through time and tune as RAGTIME makes its way to Sacramento’s UC Davis Health Pavilion. Set against a backdrop of social change and cultural clashes, RAGTIME introduces us to a vibrant tapestry of characters whose lives intertwine in unexpected and deeply moving ways.
The show kicks off with the introductions of three distinct groups: the well-to-do white suburban family, the African American musicians and performers, and the determined Eastern European immigrants. As they navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of America, each group comes to the realization that the American dream isn’t quite what they anticipated.
From the moment the show begins, the audience is transported back to the turn of the century through song and dance. What follows next is a beautiful portrayal of the ugliness of racism and bigotry that were rampant during that era and the love and advocacy of those who stood as beacons of hope and catalysts for transformation. RAGTIME sheds light on the human capacity for both cruelty and compassion, inviting us to witness the struggles and triumphs that shaped a nation and continue to shape our collective identity. As the characters navigate injustice, their stories serve as a reminder that the past is not confined to history books; it reverberates through time, echoing its lessons into the present.
I was incredibly moved by the performances of both Coolhouse Walker Jr. (Kevin Stephen McAllister) a talented pianist, and Sarah (Emily Kouatchou), a woman who carried a secret that forever altered the course of their lives. McAllister’s soulful rendition of “Wheels of a Dream” beautifully encapsulates the hope and dreams that drove his character. Kouatchou’s vocals in “Your Daddy’s Son” tugged at my mama heartstrings and left me emotionally stirred. Their chemistry on stage sparked with every note they shared, and their journey together left me in tears.
Mother (Teal Wicks) and Father’s (Andrew Samonsky) journey led them from the confines of their privileged life into the uncharted territories of empathy and understanding. With the discovery of an abandoned baby in their garden, the boundaries of their conventional lives were shattered. “What Kind of Woman” performed by Wicks, emerges as the pivotal moment when Mother makes a decision that would change her life forever.
RAGTIME further weaves its narrative by shining a light on the struggles faced by Tateh (Josh Grisetti), an immigrant striving to provide a better life for his daughter. Grisetti’s performance was nothing short of astounding, capturing the essence of a man on a journey of self-discovery amidst the turmoil of change and of what he had hoped America to be. Tatah’s character exemplified the devotion of a parent who would do anything to protect their child. This dedication is evident in Tateh’s touching song “Gliding”, which comforts his little girl and would be the turning point for his American dream.
As the three storylines intersect, we witnessed the societal tensions and injustices that permeate the era, from racial discrimination to class divides. It is in this delicate balance of historical accuracy and poetic storytelling that RAGTIME shines as a truly impactful piece of theater. The story is an ugly one. The dialog and words are hurtful, yet this show is incredibly important.
I cannot fail to mention the children who are in this amazing cast, all of which gave incredible performances. From The Little Boy (Benjamin Pajak), who provided much-needed comedic relief, to The Little Girl (Heidi Motter) whose facial expressions were perfectly timed. And Coolhouse Walker III (Kyle Thompson) stole the show because he was just so darn cute.
The talent of the ensemble gave me chills. These actors and actresses helped deliver some of the most powerful scenes of the show with incredible vocals and choreography. One of the most heart wrenching moments was during the song “Till We Reach That Day,” which embodies the true injustice of the show’s storyline. Its impact was felt throughout the theater.
RAGTIME is more than just a musical; it is a living testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the power of unity, and the injustices that we see even today. This show will emotionally move you. This show will prompt questions and provide a platform for hard conversations. This show is one that everyone should see. RAGTIME is playing now through August 13 at the UC Davis Health Pavilion. Learn more here.