Something very exciting is happening at The Landor Theatre in Clapham. I’ll cut to the chase – buy your ticket now!
Ragtime is an epic musical by trio Terrence Mcnally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and follows several groups of people from all social backgrounds, class and race as America journeys into the twentieth Century… a time for change. With some powerful, rousing numbers and a storyline that brings a tear to the eye, what on earth were the team behind this production thinking when they chose Ragtime, originally staged with a cast of 60 into a small theatre above a pub? I can only imagine the initial conversation went: “We really want to do this show, and we’re going to do it well!”
The cast of 23 lift the roof with a powerhouse of vocal talent. By the end of the first number I was left with goosebumps. The tightly drilled vocals brought the epic score to life, giving us huge numbers from a strong cast but also allowing beautifully intimate moments for duets and solos, especially Louisa Lydell’s rendition of ‘Back to Before’, which had the audience hanging on every word. George Dyer as Musical Director not only leads the band and cast but he has re-orchestrated the music for the band of five, which is no mean feat and is done at no cost to the overall sound.
A cast of 23 in a space no bigger than the office I am currently sat in may seem ridiculous, but full credit to Director Robert McWhir and Choreographer Matthew Gould who have evidently worked hard to make sure there are good sightlines for all, with a good rotation of movement in each piece to allow all cast members to be seen. Gould manages an exciting routine of dance which never feels restricted, with lifts, turns, and a beautiful duet between Aston New and Lauren Alexandra.
The other big player in this production, which moves it far beyond a pub theatre performance, is the wonderful and inventive set by Martin Thomas, complemented beautifully by a lighting design by Howard Hudson. The set which ties beautifully with the narrative of the character Tateh, played by John Barr, replicates his industry of a silhouette cutter and in doing so solves all the major issues you have from switching setting from New York to Atlantic City to New Rochelle.
This production is put together with dedication and all the professionalism of a good West End show. The standard in all areas is very high, with not one element letting this production down. You could argue that the size of venue is its downfall, but really it’s the intimacy that really makes this highly-polished performance more of a treat.
The exciting thing about a piece of theatre this well produced above a public house is that it moves away from a negative perception of fringe theatre and gives audience members a taste of what New Yorkers get when visiting an off-Broadway venue.
I cannot sing the praises of this production enough and if you want to know how to put on production, buy a pint from the bar, head upstairs at the Landor and take note.
Ragtime is playing at the Landor Theatre until 8th October. For more information and tickets, see the Landor Theatre Website.