I recently saw a performance of The Tin Pan Alley Rag at the Laura Pels Theatre. I would definitely say that that was an amazing performance. Not only was the music incredible, but the acting was also very good. It seemed as if the actors really understood ragtime and how it brought together the two races that were torn apart for so long. What really stood out to me was how Michael Boatman, who played Scott Joplin, was able to convey the emotions so effortlessly. He was able to be calm and then switch to anger in a split second flawlessly.
I really liked the fact that the play stayed true to the lives of Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin, and it featured their music. The stage was key in the entire performance, and I commend the tech crew for being able to handle it. It was a fairly small stage, but there were three sections of the stage floor that rotated for the different scenes. The crew had to be able to change the faces of the different sides very quickly in order for the show to go on. The spotlighting was very good and the lights were always on the correct character.
The music during the play was mostly light and went along with the show. There was the scene right before the intermission that gave viewers the idea that something was going wrong. We could follow the story with the music. I really liked when the actors sang their own parts and that they could change their voices for a different character. I really enjoy opera and so I was impressed with the singers of Treemonisha. It was very nice to hear opera in a musical theatre production. The director really paid attention to the time in which the play was written. They were aware that opera was not so prevalent and that most people just enjoyed the rag.
There were points in the play that the actors had to dance to the music. Most of it was in time with the music. For example, when Scott first played at the Maple Leaf, the kids danced to the music and taught the gentleman how to dance to it as well. There was a point, however, where one of the actors was off by about a second, but then he got right back on and completed the dance. I feel that the atmosphere of the theatre also helped the play. The people working in the theatre made my time enjoyable and were very friendly. This creates a comfortable environment and helped me feel relaxed.
The actors are great. They had to learn many different lines for many different characters and the songs. They had to learn of the styles back in the day when Ragtime was invented and had to learn the ways of Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin. I highly recommend Tin Pan Alley Rag for anyone who likes comedy, drama, history, and especially music.