Grand Rapids Civic Theatre Shares the Inside Dish of Ragtime, the Musical

by Kerri VanderHoff

Universal themes and timeless stories carry classic musicals through generations of audiences, earning new fans each time a favorite production returns to the local stage. Ragtime is one of those classics. Based on a 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, it is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. The show opens February 24 at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre and runs through March 19.

This time around, though, the story of Ragtime feels precisely of this moment. It’s a powerful commentary on what the American Dream looks like for three families whose lives collide in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Ragtime invites audience members into the lives of three different families and their interactions with early 20th century New York City and its surroundings.

As the United States today roils in protests and political demonstrations over immigration policy, Ragtime takes us back to the early 20th century. Despite the difference in timeframe, the connection is clear. The musical presents a story of how our country and those who immigrated here share similar hopes and dreams while struggling with class and racial divides. Beautifully sung, we’re invited into the lives and interactions of an African-American family, a Jewish immigrant family and a wealthy suburban WASP family in turn-of-the-century New York City and surroundings.

Grand Rapids Civic Theatre (GRCT) is not only committed to the passionate delivery of high-quality performances, but also to enhancing the cultural life of West Michigan. The art of theatre is a vehicle to open up conversations important to the community. Ragtime provides a unique opportunity to expand the national conversation regarding immigration by bringing it local.

GRCT partners with the Grand Rapids Public Library with a panel discussion on February 15 titled “Creating a City of Inclusion: Modern Immigration, Local Impact.” The discussion is scheduled from 7-8:00 p.m. at the main library downtown (111 Library St. NE) and seeks to answer questions on how immigration has impacted our city historically as well as today, and how our community can better support our immigrants to create an inclusive, diverse environment.

In addition, GRCT has produced an insightful and heartfelt short video titled “Building the American Dream.” In it, you will hear first and second generation immigrants from our community share their stories. It’s patriotic, uplifting and reveals great strength in our continued belief in, together, reaching for that American dream. Watch it below:

What: Ragtime, the Musical
Where: Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, 30 N Division Ave.
When: February 24-March 19, 7:30 p.m. (Wed-Sat) and 2 p.m. (Sun)
Tickets: $18-$37

Getting the Inside Dish at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre

In honor of Ragtime the Musical, GRCT captured the true stories of immigrants living in West Michigan on video. WLM was there for the video premiere, met the storytellers and received the “Inside Dish” on Ragtime the Musical with performers and staff at the Civic Theatre’s “Inside Dish” presentation.

Kerri is co-creator of the award winning and was project director of the new GoSite downtown. She is an independent consultant specializing in coalition building and broad-based collaborative projects.

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