Nashville Repertory Theatre (The Rep) returns to the stage with its season opener, Ragtime, the Tony Award-winning musical that tells the tale of three families’ stories that intertwine into a tapestry of a restless New York City during the turn of the century.
“Ragtime is a big American musical which both celebrates the good in our country and challenges us to do better when we don’t live up to our ideals, “ said Drew Ogle, Executive Director of Nashville Rep. “After a year of shut down due to the pandemic, a period which exposed many of the divides in our country, it feels both appropriate to celebrate and to ask how we can do better. The themes in Ragtime could have been pulled from today’s headlines: systemic racism, our treatment of immigrants, gender equality, and police brutality. We have to keep talking about these things until we get them right.”
Based on the 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow, Ragtime uses song to weave together stories of early twentieth-century New York from three different perspectives: a Harlem musician, upper-class suburbanites, and a determined Jewish immigrant. Historical figures including Booker T. Washington, Harry Houdini, J. P. Morgan, Henry Ford and Evelyn Nesbit make cameo appearances. Terrence McNally won a Tony Award for “Best Book of a Musical.” Ragtime composer Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens won Tony Awards for “Best Original Score.” The Nashville Rep’s production features 35 actors and 15 musicians, and is directed by Micah-Shane Brewer, making his Rep directorial debut.
“We are so excited to be back on the stage,” said Brewer. “We wanted to return with a bang. It’s our largest cast in over 15 years, and our return to TPAC’s Polk Theater after a 13-year absence. It’s one of our most diverse casts and creative teams ever, with 22 actors making their Rep debut. Ragtime is one of the largest shows the Nashville Rep has ever produced and was the perfect choice as our season opener.”
The cast is led by Megan Murphy Chambers as Mother, Garris Wimmer as Tateh, Galen Fott as Father, and making their Rep debuts Justin Marriel Boyd as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. and Shelby Denise Smith as Sarah. Joining them is Steven McCoy as Younger Brother, Marin Rorex as Little Boy, Millie Sims as Little Girl, Nancy Allen as Emma Goldman, Galen Crawley as Evelyn Nesbit, Wood Van Meter as Harry Houdini, Bakari King as Booker T. Washington, Curt Denham as Grandfather, Geoffrey Davin as J.P. Morgan, Matthew Carlton as Henry Ford, Kortney Ballenger as Sarah’s Friend, Dustin Davis as Willie Conklin, and Kambri King as Young Coalhouse. Featuring Matthew Benenson Cruz, Aaron T. Castle, Nate Gilanyi, Ray Gleaves, Carli Hardon, LaDarra Jackal, Hatty Ryan King, Angela Madaline-Johnson, Gerold Oliver, Mariah Parris, Alex Pineiro, Brityn Ramsey, Maya Antoinette Riley, Haille Wallace, Sheldon Thomas, Shawn Whitsell, and Sarah Katherine Zanotti in the ensemble.
Ragtime features a score influenced by many different American musical styles, including gospel, jazz, and, of course, ragtime. Music director and conductor Dave Ragland and choreographer Tosha Pendergrast of TMProductions join Brewer in their Rep debut. The design team includes sets by Gary C. Hoff, costumes by Lori Gann-Smith, lighting by Darren Levin, sound by Nivedhan Singh, props by Abigail Nichol, and projections by Cody Stockstill. New to the team are fight choreographer Diego Gomez, dramaturg Dr. Phyllis D. Adams, and mental health provider Crystal Owens of Red Cedar Therapy.
In addition to Ragtime, the 2021-22 season also includes the return of our holiday classic A Christmas Story; the Nashville premier of School Girls; Or,The African Mean Girls Play; and Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins. The Nashville Rep has been named Best Professional Theatre by the Nashville Scene, Best Local Theatre by The Tennessean, Largest Arts Organization by Nashville Business Journal, and recognized by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County for 35 years of service to the community. The Rep’s shows, actors, directors, and designers have been honored by Nfocus, Nashville Scene, The Tennessean, and the First Night Awards. For Nashville Repertory 2021- 22 season tickets and showtime information, visit www.nashvillerep.org or www.tpac.org.