Ragtime, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Charing Cross Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 17th October 2016 by Olivia Mitchell

Set in the racism filled America of the early 20th century, Ragtime follows the stories of a white family, a black family and a Jewish immigrant family as they navigate their way around the country and discover what life has to offer them. Despite facing their own individual struggles, the families stories intertwine to create a stunning and flowing arc. The story is drama at its highest and features moments of extreme joy as well as despairing pain and heartbreak. It's sure to take you on an emotional roller coaster and leave you with a new view on life.

The dark tone of the musical is brought to life by Tom Rodgers and Toots Butcher who have managed to transform the usually hopefully and idealistic New York into a grungy more somber backdrop. This is helped by Howard Hudson's great lighting design which is particularly effective in act 2.

Although the story is extremely well written, this show wouldn't the triumph it is without the stunning cast. Danielle Tarento has done a fabulous choosing the people to helm this production with the entire cast working incredibly as a solid unit, all singing, dancing, acting and playing all the instruments on stage and creating a resonant and powerful sound in the intimate Charing Cross Theatre; it was truly an impressive and emotive sight to see.

The lead cast were completely faultless. Jennifer  Saayeng was a personal standout as Sarah who's performance of 'Your Daddy's Son' was absolutely incredible. Anita Louise Combe as mother was wonderful throughout, stealing the scenes a number of times with moments of beautiful soprano sound as well as a fabulous belt. Ako Mitchell gave the most chilling performance as Coalhouse Walker Jr. and he executed the switch in the character towards the end of Act 1 exquisitely. Gary Tushaw captured the raw emotion and pain of Tateh perfectly and had a wonderful relationship with Alana Hinge who I recently saw in The Secret Garden who played his daughter wonderfully and I'm sure she will be a star of the stage in the future. In all the ensemble numbers I kept hearing someone's beautiful voice ringing out and drawing my attention over the others but I couldn't pinpoint who it was; that was until the end of Act 1 when Seyi Oomba sung the most extraordinary solo in 'Till We Reach That Day' which had me in utter awe. Straight out of drama school and completely standing out in the show I think we are witnessing the birth of a star with Ms Oomba!

This revival of Ragtime is a perfect example of what musical theatre should be. It superlatively combines everything crucial to make a memorable performance and creates an overall magnificent show. Although the show is long, the pace was steady and I felt invested in it throughout. Thom Southerland's direction has created a perfectly formed musical which is rousing, enticing, heartbreaking and beautiful. It's message is as resonant now as ever and this is really one not to be missed!