Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Ragtime The Musical

Book by Terrence McNallyragtime directed by rachel rockwell at drury lane oakbrook theatre

Music by Stephen Flaherty

Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow

Directed and Choreographed by Rachel Rockwell

Music Director Roberta Duchak

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre

Lavish, stunning and refreshingly production of Ragtime is a major triumph for Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre!

Since Kyle DeSantis and his team of creatives have taken over at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, the shows have constantly gotten better. Now with director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell’s perfect production of Ragtime, that level has increased even higher. What you’ll get when you attend (and you absolutely must) for a ticket price ranging from $31 to $45 is a fully produced Broadway production of Ragtime that is better than most tours that cost $85- $95.

RAGTIME- Valisia, Quentin & Ensemble

Every aspect of Rockwell’s production is first-class and executed superbly.  From Kevin Depinet’s set design to Sage Marie Carter’s rear screen video projections (the best use of video I’ve ever seen on stage) to Jesse Klug’s stunning lighting with Garth Helm and Ray Nardelli’s sound design and Santo Loquastro’s early 20th Century costumes – Ragtime is stunning theatrical triumph.


Ragtime is an ambitious musical about three key element in development of the American Experience in the early 20th Century. Featuring a Tony Award winning book by Terrence McNally that weaves E.L. Doctorow’s novel into a cohesive story; Ragtime tells three stories—a Harlem musician, a wealthy New Rochelle Wasp family and a Latvian Jewish immigrant in a poignant expose of the timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair, and love and hate in 1906 America.

RAGTIME- Quentin

Tony award winning score by Stephan Flaherty has a fine mixture of ragtime, vaudeville and early jazz together with lofty ballads, a touch of gospel, Eastern European Jewish flavors, a hint of Joplin and stirring anthems aptly moving the story along. Lynn Ahrens’ lyrics are meaningful and resonating.

With over 30 songs, Ragtime is a modern operetta from three points of view all meshing into a cohesive whole. Flaherty’s score is rich in power anthems that evoke the emotions, the pains and the dreams of  people struggling to be part of  America.

RAGTIME- Valisia, Quentin & Ensemble

Director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell has assembled a cast of 33 (with mostly Equity actors) that features  “A” list talents  lead by Larry Adams (Father), Cory Goodrich (Mother), Mark David Kaplan (Tateh) with excellent work from the commanding Quentin Earl Darrington as Coalhouse Walker Jr.   Valisia LeKae (Sarah), Max Quinlan (Brother), Stef Tovar (Houdini) and Summer Naomi Smart (Evelyn Nesbit) each made major contributions to the show.  Young Daniel Coonley deftly narrates the show. You’d be hard pressed to see better ensemble work in a musical.


Rockwell’s choreography was fresh – her “The Crime of the Century’ was a cute number complete with masks; her “Atlantic City” was inventive. Ragtime is Rachel Rockwell’s finest work to date. The lady sure knows how to mount a musical!

There are many terrific songs in Ragtime but among my favorites are: the amazing anthem duet by Walker and Sarah, “The Wheels of A Dream’ sung with stirring power by Darrington and LeKae; Tateh’s ode to the potential of America in “A Shtetl Iz Amereke/Success” that Kaplan lands with verve.  Cory Goodrich beautifully nails “Goodby, My Love” and “Back To Before.”

Ragtime is a three hour joyous celebration of the human spirit with a soaring score, wonderful singing that is staged to thrill. It is a non-stop theatrical experience that begs to be seen. Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre’s production has set a new standard for Chicago musical theatre. This production of Ragtime is testimony to Kyle DeSantis’ determination to make Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre a major force in American regional theatre.  He sure is on his way. A most captivating theatrical experience awaits. Don’t miss this gem.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre,  100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, call 630-530-0111,, tickets $31 – $45, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 50 minutes with intermission, through May 23, 2010

6 thoughts on “Ragtime The Musical

  • Lora Kopriva

    Ragtime is magnificent! Gorgeous from opening to close, I saw opening night and the audience was nearly begging to stand and say “thank you” at the end. Do not miss this production. It is exceptional.

  • Wow. What an amazing show! This was my first ever time to Drury Lane, and I’m really regretting not going to see “Cabaret” after seeing this one. Stirring music, a solid story, and great singing made this a theatre event to remember. The highlights for me were:

    The wonderful opening number.
    “Wheels of a Dream” and “You Are Your Daddy’s Son”
    The baseball number.
    “Journey On”

    And last but not least: Cory Goodrich’s stunning rendition of “Back to Before”, which was simply breathtaking.

    Everything else was great, though. What a show! Thank you Drury Lane.

  • I must say it was an AMAZING show. I’m only a junior in high school but we go to drury lane every year and i always enjoy it but this year was absolutely my favorite. I loved Valisia Lekae! She even came to visit our school the next day and here our choir perform. She performed Your Daddy’s Son for us and i cry every time i hear her perform it. Her passion is incredible!!!

  • I’m glad you enjoyed Ragtime.

  • I know I`m late on this but …. why not ? This show has changed me for the good. I saw Caity posted our great adventure and I just had to add. Valisia Lekae is such a humble rare talent. She always gives her all, and I truly thank her for her encouragement at our school. This was an amazing show with a great cast. Ive gotten the chance to see Quentin In “I Dream” starring as Martin Luther KIng Jr. in Atlanta. I cant wait to see Valisia starring as “Laurey” in Oklahoma the musical in Washington D.C. this Fall and Winter. Outstanding performance!!!

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