note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey
Reviewed by Beverly Creasey
Sometimes a big musical does better in a small space. "Rags" played the Colonial at least a dozen years ago, and it seemed lost on the enormous stage. Broadway didn't help it either. Well the authors have tinkered..and the creative folks at Turtle Lane have found the heart --- and the heartbreak --- of this musical.
Joseph Stein's story begins aboard a ship carrying immigrants to Ellis Island at the turn of the twentieth century. The idealistic Jewish immigrants in "Rags" hope to find the "land of milk and honey" --- instead they find work in the notorious sweatshops of New York's Lower East Side.
The songs (by Charles Strouse and Stephen Schwartz) reflect the music of the time. Some songs pay tribute to ragtime, some sound like Kurt Weill. The charm of "Rags" is in the mixture of history (Emma Goldman, Tammany Hall) and its compelling fiction --- the stories of women striving for freedom in their new land.
Wayne Ward's orchestra has never sounded better. The singing is first rate, and Ronald L. Dion's set transforms itself numerous times --- with a shimmering Liberty my fave. Director Chris Cardoni's cast (Three roles are double cast) takes hold from the get-go and gives their all. Lynne Shane is radiant as a spunky newcomer searching (and alas, finding) her brute of a husband. Her "Blame It on The Summer Night" sparkles. Yolanda La Roy too makes "Rags" worth the trip. Jack Agnew as her fearful father, and Gwen Tulin as adorable comic relief all make this production a must see. Mazel Tov.