The revival of “Ragtime” on Broadway last night was one of those monumental events that no one will ever forget. It’s a hit, a total success, and a beautiful, entertaining important piece of art. See it, buy tickets for it; this “Ragtime” is headed to next June’s Tony Awards.
However: “Spider Man: Turn of the Dark” is not. I am told by insiders that it won’t open before August. It will miss the Tony deadline and the Tony Awards and the Jewish holiday of’ Tisha B’av, which starts on July 19, 2010. I use that as an example because no one ever knows when Tisha B’av comes, and we always say, “That will happen Next Tisha B’av.” But “Spider-Man” will not happen by then.
The word from a source who knows about the $45 million budget: “The money is there, but we haven’t seen it. We’ve heard about it.” The feeling they say is that U2 and Bono will have more of a role in the show since it’s their music. Producers Jim Stern and Norton Herrick’s names are still in the mix; so is Michael Cohl’s.
This has to be a real blow to stars Alan Cumming and Evan Rachel Wood. They are now in limbo for months when they could be taking film roles. Each is always in demand.
More Broadway news: it should be announced today that Will Smith and Jay Z are putting some big bucks into “Fela!’ opening a week from tonight. “Fela” was a huge hit off Broadway. Now it can have a real life uptown. Hooray!
As for “Ragtime”: it has no stars, but a cast of mostly Broadway newcomers who last night wowed Senate Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Barney Frank, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and Montego Glover of “Memphis” fame (why hasn’t this powerhouse potential R&B diva been signed to a record label already?), Jason Alexander, Richard Kind, Doris Roberts, Tovah Feldshuh and Kathie Lee Gifford among others.
“Ragtime” was not a hit when it opened on Broadway in January 1998. It played two years, had a lackluster reaction, and faded out.
But the new “Ragtime” is supercharged, passionate, and timely. I don’t think anyone’s seen such a turnaround in fortunes for a musical since “Chicago” was revived. Certainly, the great writer E.L. Doctorow ‘ upon whose classic novel the musical is based ‘ was the most enthused about this new version.
The funny thing is, the original version had real Broadway stars ”Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Judy Kaye, and Audra McDonald. But it had no soul for some reason. These things are all about chemistry, aren’t they?
The new “Ragtime” may be more resonant because, set in 1902, the story is about the end of an era, or many eras. You can feel the uncertainty in the air. And that change ‘ or those changes ‘ feel a lot like the traumas of 2009. Things are happening, no one’s sure what, or if it will work out. Certainly, Senator Pelosi, who was sitting across the aisle, could relate to that. She’s the shepherd of changes that some people are resisting out of fear ‘ just like Father, the “Ragtime” character who is watching his patrician America give way to immigrants from Europe and “negroes.” Nothing will ever be the same. As such, the story of “Ragtime” ends with a glimpse of World War I, the biggest change ever.
Names to remember for the Tonys: Quentin Earl Darrington as Coalhouse Walker; Christiane Noll as Mother; Robert Petkoff as Tateh; Bobby Steggert as Mother’s Younger Brother; Stephanie Umoh as Sarah; Ron Bohmer as Father. Last night no one had ever heard of them. Today, they’re stars. So too is director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge, who also makes her wildly successful Broadway debut running a show. And just to give you an idea of how much peace and love was spread by “Ragtime,” I caught the Nederlanders and the Shubert all eating together at the Tavern on the Green after party!
P.S. Montego Glover and Queen Latifah join a bunch of stars next Monday for Rosie O’Donnell’s annual don’t-miss fundraiser for her Broadway Kids.