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Griffin Theatre Company is pleased to announce casting for its newly-orchestrated chamber version of the Tony Award-winning musical RAGTIME, reimagined by director Scott Weinstein with new orchestrations by Matt Deitchman, music direction by Jermaine Hill and Ellen Morris and choreography by William Carlos Angulo. With 20 actors, two pianos and a wind instrument, RAGTIME features a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. RAGTIME will play May 27 – July 16, 2017 at The Den Theatre's Heath Main Stage, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for RAGTIME are currently available at www.griffintheatre.com or by calling (866) 811-4111. 

 

RAGTIME will feature Laura McClain as Mother, Denzel Tsopnang as Coalhouse Walker, Jr., Jason Richards as Tateh, Katherine Thomas as Sarah, Ben Miller as The Little Boy, Autumn Hlava as The Little Girl, Matt Edmonds as Younger Brother, Frederick Harris as Booker T. Washington, Scott Allen Luke as Father, Neala Barron as Emma Goldman, Caitlin Collins as Evelyn Nesbit, Jonathan Schwart as Henry Ford, Joe Capstick as Harry Houdini, Larry Baldacci as Grandfather, Danielle Davis as Sarah’s Friend, Courtney Jones as Kathleen/Brigit and others, with an ensemble including Marcellus Burt, Arielle Leverett, Alanna Lovely and Juwon Perry.

 

Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, RAGTIME is set at the dawn of a new century where the lives of three distinct American families from different backgrounds intersect in their search for the American dream. Part history lesson—part family saga, this stirring musical asks us think about racism, immigration, social justice, wage inequality and the role of women in society in a changing America. 

 

The production team for RAGTIME includes: William Boles (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Alex Ridgers (lighting design), Stephen Ptacek (sound design), Catherine Allen (production manager), KZ Wilkerson (asst. director/asst. choreographer) and Katie Messmore (stage manager).

 

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

 

Title: RAGTIME

Book: Terrence McNally

Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens

Music: Stephen Flaherty

Director: Scott Weinstein

New Orchestrations/Music Supervisor: Matt Deitchman

Music Direction: Jermaine Hill and Ellen Morris

Choreography: William Carlos Angulo.

Associate Director/Associate Choreographer: KZ Wilkerson

 

Cast: Larry Baldacci (Grandfather), Neala Barron (Emma Goldman), Marcellus Burt (Ensemble), Joe Capstick (Harry Houdini), Caitlin Collins (Evelyn Nesbit), Danielle Davis (Sarah’s Friend), Matt Edmonds (Younger Brother), Frederick Harris (Booker T. Washington), Autumn Hlava (The Little Girl), Courtney Jones (Kathleen/Brigit and others), Arielle Leverett (Ensemble), Alanna Lovely (Ensemble), Scott Allen Luke (Father), Laura McClain (Mother), Ben Miller (The Little Boy), Juwon Perry (Ensemble), Jason Richards (Tateh), Jonathan Schwart (Henry Ford), Katherine Thomas (Sarah) and Denzel Tsopnang (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.).

 

Location: The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Dates: Previews: Saturday, May 27 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, May 28 at 3 pm, Thursday, June 1 at 7:30 pm, Friday, June 2 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, June 3 at 7:30 pm

Regular run: Thursday, June 8 – Sunday, July 16, 2017

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. 

Tickets: Previews $30. Regular run $39. Students, seniors & veterans $34 ($25 previews). Group discount are available for groups of ten or more. Tickets are currently available at www.griffintheatre.com or by calling (866) 811-4111.

 

About the Creative Team

 

Scott Weinstein (Director) previously directed Griffin’s Bat Boy: The Musical, Titanic and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Scott is the Co-Artistic Director of Buzz22 Chicago, where he most recently directed She Kills Monsters as part of Steppenwolf Theatre's Garage Rep Series. Other credits include Seussical and Bolcom’s Fairy Tales (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); A Doll’s House (Buzz22 Chicago); All American (Red Twist); Baristas (NY International Fringe Festival); Ampersand (Bloomington Playwrights Project); and the first full productions of Murder For Two (Adirondack Theatre Festival, Hangar Theatre, 42nd Street Moon). Scott is the recipient of a Berkshire Theatre Festival Directing Fellowship and a Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Observership. He is currently the Associate Director for the National Tour, Las Vegas and Chicago productions of Million Dollar Quartet. He is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and proud graduate of Northwestern University. Weinstein recently won a Jeff Award for his direction of the musical Rent for Theo Ubique Theatre.

 

Matt Deitchman (New Orchestrations/Music Supervisor) is a Chicago based actor, music director and composer and multi-instrumentalist originally from Allendale, New Jersey. Music credits include: Tug Of War, Road Show, Seussical, Shrek (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); Adding Machine, Into the Woods (The Hypocrites); The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes (Mercury Theater); Hero (Asolo Repertory Theatre & Marriott Theatre); King & I, The Wizard Of Oz, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, For The Boys (Marriott Theatre); She Kills Monsters (Steppenwolf Garage-Original Score); Do Over (MIC - Original Music/Lyrics Co-Write); Spelling Bee (Griffin Theatre); Do I Hear a Waltz?, The Baker’s Wife, The Pajama Game (Music Theatre Company); and Found (American Music Theater Project). Matt graduated from the Northwestern University Theatre Department where he twice music directed, composed, and orchestrated for the annual Waa-Mu and was the recipient of the Peggy Dow and Frank Gamble Fitzpatrick Scholarships, as well as the prestigious Sarah Siddons Scholarship Award for excellence in Musical Theatre.

 

Jermaine Hill (Music Director) is thrilled to be working on his first production with Griffin Theatre Company. An actor, singer, music director, arranger/orchestrator, pianist and vocal coach originally from New York City, he recently music directed The Gefilte Fish Chronicles (Chicago Music Theatre Festival), Godspell and Bonnie and Clyde (Actors Training Center), and was music arranger for Barney: The Elf (The Other Theatre Company). Upcoming music directing credits include Madagascar (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre) and two productions in the 2017-2018 Porchlight Music Theatre season. Performance highlights include Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall), the Aldeburgh Festival (U.K.), The Lost Colony (Manteo, N.C.), two seasons at the Capitol Theatre (Rome, N.Y.), and a commercial with the Onion Labs/NBC. He is currently an assistant professor of theatre at North Central College, where he coordinates the musical theatre and dance programs. He is a proud graduate of Ithaca College and the New England Conservatory of Music, and is proudly represented by Gray Talent Group. jermainehillmusic.com

 

Ellen Morris (Music Director) is a Chicagoland music director and teaching artist. Recent professional theater credits include Next to Normal, Dogfight (Boho Theatre), Adding Machine, (The Hypocrites), The Velveteen Rabbit (The Marriott Theatre) and Northanger Abbey (Lifeline Theatre). She is the resident music director and a voice teacher at the Wilmette Park District and also teaches at the Music Institute of Chicago and Northwestern. Ellen is a proud Northwestern graduate. 

 

The Griffin Theatre's 2016/2017 Premiere Season Sponsor is Brenda & James Grusecki with additional season sponsor support from Jeff Graves Realtor @properties, Kassie Davis & Bruce Beatus, Mary Grover, Randy & Lloyd Gussis, Claire Conley & Joan Mazzonelli.

 

The Griffin Theatre Company is a Blue Star Theater and is proud to support our military enlisted and veterans. 

 

About Griffin Theatre Company

Established in 1988 and celebrating its 29th season, the mission of the Griffin Theatre Company is to create extraordinary and meaningful theatrical experiences for both children and adults by building bridges of understanding between generations that instill in its audience an appreciation of the performing arts. Through artistic collaboration the Griffin Theatre Company produces literary adaptations, original work and classic plays that challenge and inspire, with wit, style and compassion for the audience.

 

The Griffin Theatre Company is the recipient of 105 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations for theater excellence in Chicago. The Griffin was the repeat winner of the 2016 Jeff Award for “Best Production of a Play” for London Wall having won the same award in 2015 for its production of Men Should Weep.

 

The Griffin Theatre Company is partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

 

For additional information, visit www.griffintheatre.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Truth should be at the heart of every good drama piece. Truth, honesty, a bit of realism, something that makes the audience connect with the story, or the characters. Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie attempts to reach a truthful depth, but leaves audiences shrugging with indifference wondering what exactly to take away from the play.

 

Nearly twenty years after her son’s AIDS related death, Katharine (Cindy Gold) pays an unexpected visit to the New York apartment of his former partner, Cal (Jeff Parker), who is now married to another man and has a young child. Over the course of the play Katharine and Cal exchange stories, sass, and sarcasm as they awkwardly interact and attempt to reconcile. Katharine remains judgmental and curt throughout her visit to the apartment, portraying the stereotypical conservative, old fashioned, bitter woman well. Cal, on the other hand, attempts to be gracious and overtly friendly in the face of this judgmental woman. Things heat up when we meet Cal’s partner Will (Benjamin Sprunger) and their son Bud (Ben Miller). Katharine’s disdain for the household and the situation is apparent but predictable as are the interactions with the two men. The remainder of the play is both forced and at time self-righteous and does nothing to move the needle on the many themes it attempts to tackle.

 

At the heart of the play is a conservative, judgmental woman “challenged’ to accept that her son was gay and that a same-sex couple is raising a child. This theme might have been provocative ten years earlier, but now is played out. Mothers and Sons also touches on homosexuality, AIDS, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, loss of a child, loss of a husband, and tries its best to address all of them within the 90 minute run time. There are so many themes that we forget that the son was the driving force that brought this woman to this apartment. He is used more as a prop, much like the journal that was hardly mentioned - though we come to find was the reason for Katharine’s visit. What’s more is the themes and how the play chooses to address them are not profound or thought provoking. Nothing is said that the audience doesn’t already know, or even what the characters don’t already know, which borders on the preachy versus clever. And these themes don’t do anything to change the characters or bring them closer together. At one point, Will’s character is so offended that he asks Katharine to leave, though she stays, shares a self-indulgent “woe-is-me” story that highlights her selfishness more, and suddenly Cal is embracing her as if he understands her after all these years. This sentiment is entirely lost on the audience. Will, the character who was ready to throw the woman out, is suddenly calm, cool, and collected. The young boy offers cookies and milk to everyone, refers to this strange woman as grandma and they all sit around and all but sing Kumbaya. And that is where the play ends. 

 

Isn’t that truth? That in a matter of a single awkward visit, a selfish, self-loathing, gay-hating conservative becomes accepting of gay marriage, same-sex parenting, and her son’s death? And that her son’s former partner who felt the cold sting and shun of this woman would be so moved as to invite her into his home and his family? It isn’t truth. It’s trite and contrived. Call me a cynic, a millennial, jaded, what have you. The truth might be that people like Katharine still exist in the world, but would someone really be swayed in such a short amount of time? Was it out of sheer loneliness on her part and pity on his end that these two characters accepted one another and will move forward? Mothers and Sons did not offer us this depth, so it’s hardly worthy of such deep analysis.

 

Truthfully, there isn’t much one could take away from Mothers and Sons. You could reach and say it was a profound dialogue about how the definition of family continually changes and evolves. You could speculate that people in mourning can come together to find comfort and support in one another. But Mothers and Sons does nothing to challenge the audience or the characters, or create a worthwhile dialogue in today’s world.

 

Directed by Steve Scott, Mothers and Sons runs through February 27th. Tickets are available at http://www.northlight.org/.

 

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