Publication Date: Friday, July 16, 2004
"Ragtime" is a good time
"Ragtime" is a good time
(July 16, 2004) Musical is Foothill's biggest production ever
By Julie O'Shea
Foothill Music Theatre is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with here on the Peninsula.
The community college musical theater troupe has gotten increasingly more ambitious in recent years performing such shows as "Into the Woods," "Guy and Dolls" and 2003's "Show Boat." And now, the group is getting ready to open its tour de force, "Ragtime," the 1998 Tony Award-winning musical about American life at the turn of the 20th century.
The epic production of more than 60 actors and 300 costumes, the college's largest show yet, opens July 23 at the campus' Smithwick Theatre. It will run through Aug. 15.
"I've been crazy about this show since seeing it in 1998 in L.A.," veteran director Jay Manley said. "I just thought it was so wonderful. It is new. So much of the time, I feel like I am just reinventing the classics."
Based on the E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name, "Ragtime" is the brainchild of dynamic composer-lyricist team Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens ("Seussical"), who, through song, stitch together the fabric of the American Dream.
Written by Terrance McNally ("Kiss of the Spider Woman"), the story alternates between three distinctly different groups of Americans -- upper-middle class white Protestants, Harlem blacks and newly arrived immigrant families looking for a better life. The show is also peppered with cameos from some of the nation's greatest historical figures: Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, J.P. Morgan and Harry Houdini.
"'Ragtime' is really about the American melting pot," said Manley, who founded Foothill Music Theatre in 1980. "It's about what binds us together as a country. It will leave you feeling very good," but Manley promised, "there will be tears, too."
Stephane Alwyn, a Mountain View financial analyst who plays Houdini, said he hopes "Ragtime" will appeal to a broad audience, although he is not sure children will be able to sit still throughout the nearly three-hour production.
"It's certainly educational ... and the music is fantastic, but the show has some difficult moments. It's not your happy-go-lucky musical," Alwyn warned. "It's not for the really young kids."
That's too bad. Younger theatergoers probably would love to see Alwyn's Houdini "escape" from a straitjacket and a pair of handcuffs.
"I'm not doing it the same way he'd do it," Alwyn said, meaning there won't be any real Houdini magic transpiring on the Smithwick stage. However, Alwyn, who is training with a real magician, said he still hopes to "wow" his audience. And "if you want to put down that I am actually doing it, you can," he added with a laugh.
E-mail Julie O'Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Foothill Music Theatre presents "Ragtime," music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Book by Terrance McNally.
Where: Foothill College's Smithwick Theatre, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
When: Opens July 23; Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.; closes Aug. 15
Cost: $10-$24; Foothill College's annual benefit gala will feature a performance of "Ragtime" on July 24 for $150 a ticket or $2,500 for a table. The evening will include dinner, wine tasting and live and silent auctions.
Call: 948-4444. For more on the benefit gala, call 949-6231.
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