Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two (aghrivaine) wrote,
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash: Pick Two


Saturday night, I went to see Ragtime: The Musical at the Landis Performing Arts Center in Riverside, CA.

The play is a social-realism song-and-dance extravaganza. The majority of time on stage is spent singing and dancing, so as you might expect, the musical will live and die based on the quality of music. The story centers around the historical events and cultural changes occurring around the turn of the century, just prior to World War One.

'Course, that's basically backdrop to a whole lot of singing and dancing. The show is totally stolen by a talented actor by the name of Frank Romeo, who plays the role of "Father". Father is an allegory for the archetypical American male of the time - close-minded, obsessed with propriety, with a mind for industry, invention or discovery - but none at all for empathy, compassion, or sentiment. The play is, in a very real way, about the evolution of Father as a character - how he realizes that his world is changing, and his attitudes will have to change with it. Father *is* American culture - in all it's complication and intricacy. Given this monumental task, Romeo imbues the character with a multi-layered, nuanced beauty that lurks beneath Father's stoic exterior. The light of understanding and a flowering consciousness slowly grows within Father's rigid frame, until at last, all the other players and actors are rendered into bit-parts, sad little stalking shadows writ small against a noon-day sun.

It's almost a pity that Father ends up so wholly dominating the play, becuase there are fine parts with fine actors that get lost in his brilliance. The character of "Colehouse" (Charl Brown) is a complicated, empassioned role with some stellar songs, belted out with amazing depth and clarity by Brown's superb singing voice. Still, he's no Father/Romeo.

Some of the song-and-dance numbers are so old-timey that they almost seem like a Simpsons parody, like Mr. Burns' "See My Vest" number from the episode with the puppies. But, it's saved from irrelevance by the outstanding voice and presence of Frank Romeo.

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