REVIEW: Ragtime hits the mark

Leven Amateur Musical Association recently performed 'Ragtime' at The Centre, Leven. All pictures by Ken Wilkie.
Leven Amateur Musical Association recently performed 'Ragtime' at The Centre, Leven. All pictures by Ken Wilkie.

Leven Amateur Musical Association (LAMA) recently performed the Fife premiere of ‘Ragtime The Musical’ in The Centre, Leven.

It was truly a premiere of which the company can be extremely proud – a musical and dramatic feast for the emotions of the appreciative audiences.

Terrence McNally’s clever adaptation of E. L. Doctorow’s complex novel about American society just after the turn of last century interweaves the life stories of three groups of people.

We are introduced to a white Anglo-Saxon protestant family before meeting the people of Harlem, including Coalhouse Walker Junior, a black musician. Finally, we meet a group of immigrants arriving on Ellis Island including Tateh, a Jewish immigrant, and his daughter. Their stories are linked with such historical figures as Emma Goldman, Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry K. Thaw, Stanford White, Admiral Peary, Matthew Henson and Charles S. Whitman.

This dramatic and emotion-packed script combines with the rich music of Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens to form a piece of unforgettable theatre – and LAMA rose to the challenge, magnificently showcasing the depth and width of talent within the company.

The large and excellent orchestra, under the expert baton of musical director Peter Holligan, played the score to perfection and complemented both principal and chorus voices.

ne of the many highlights was the high quality of the singing throughout

One of the many highlights was the high quality of the singing throughout. Few companies could produce such a rich and textured tone.

Another highlight was the teamwork, on and off stage, which was a necessity for this complex piece, with almost 50 named parts including 20 principal characters.

All parts were played with confidence and conviction, bringing the audience with them as their characters developed on their many journeys through an ever-changing world.

The different societies of the time were also shown clearly through the enthusiastic and contrasting dance styles which seamlessly assisted the story.

Kirsty Gillespie captivated the audience with her singing and her mature and warm depiction of ‘Mother’.

She was well matched with her upstanding and traditional husband, played strongly by Derek Langley.

Howard Stevens, as ‘Grandfather’, grumbled beautifully about everything, and Mother’s ‘Younger Brother’, played by Tony Livingston, made a convincing young man searching for a direction in life until he met the social activist ‘Emma Goldman’, played powerfully by Elinor Hay.

In total contrast, Lindsay Rowan sparkled as the sensational ‘Evelyn Nesbit’.

Andrew Doig as ‘Coalhouse Walker Jr’ and Steph Hay as ‘Sarah’ made a wonderful couple whose considerable acting and singing skills enabled them to play their roles with great pride, passion and determination.

Nigel Orkney was totally believable in the role of ‘Tateh’, as both struggling immigrant and successful movie director.

His relationship with his daughter, played sensitively by Millie Anderson / Luci Laing, both LAMA youth members, was delightful.

Special congratulations must go to all the talented LAMA youth members who joined the cast for ‘Ragtime’ and brought with them a real sense of family.

They were led by Benjamin Anderson as ‘The Little Boy’, whose conviction and 
enthusiasm never wavered, and Adele Ward as ‘Sarah’s Friend’, who led the company 
magnificently in the finale 
of Act 1.

Finally, a special mention for Benjamin Innes, who stole many a heart when he appeared briefly as ‘Coalhouse Walker 111’.

Director and choreographer Fiona Gallacher Stewart, assistant to the production team Lawrence Crowe, and concept designer Charles Small must be congratulated on creating a magnificent, believable and coherent 
production enhanced through the creative use of projections by Sheona Goodall, and stunning, contrasting costumes from Utopia.

Directing a cast of over 60 on The Centre stage cannot be an easy task but good use of the multi-level set allowed the cast to move around the acting area easily, never giving the impression of being 
overcrowded.

No show can be as successful without the support of the lighting, sound and backstage teams, which again contributed to the great teamwork evident throughout.

‘Ragtime’ was a different, exciting and brave choice of show for LAMA to bring to the Leven stage but it was a delight that it 
did so.

It maintains the high quality of performance consistently set by LAMA and we can now look forward to next year’s production which will be another Fife premiere – ‘Sunshine on Leith’.