'Ragtime' coming to Broad Brook stage

By Jennifer Holloway - Staff Writer
Broad Brook - posted Wed., Apr. 27, 2011
Coalhouse Walker (played by Jerrial Young) plays the piano for Sarah (Chae-vonne Munroe) in 'Ragtime.' Photos by Jennifer Holloway.
Coalhouse Walker (played by Jerrial Young) plays the piano for Sarah (Chae-vonne Munroe) in 'Ragtime.' Photos by Jennifer Holloway.

The Tony Award-winning musical “Ragtime” will open at the Broad Brook Opera House on Friday, May 6, at 8 p.m. Director Sharon FitzHenry said the famous musical has been on the opera house’s wish list for several years, and together with Music Director Bill Martin, she was finally able to grant that wish.

FitzHenry, who directed four previous shows at the opera house including “Big River” and “The Secret Garden,” said the musical is about hope of the American dream. Set early in the 20th century, FitzHenry explained “Ragtime” has three focuses, with characters trying to define their own successes represented by Mother, a woman trying to find her own voice in a patriarchal society, Coalhouse Walker, a Harlem musician dealing with civil rights issues, and Latvian immigrants who came to America looking for a better life. However, once immigrants disembarked at Ellis Island, a better life was not always what was found. 

Jerrial Young, who plays Coalhouse Walker, did not find it hard to identify with his character. “It’s something I still see every day,” he said regarding racial tensions explored in the musical.

Sue Dziura, in the role of Mother, immediately identified with the character when she saw the musical in 2003 in Memphis, Tenn., before she had children. “It reminded me of my mom and other women I know,” she said.

Dziura is drawn to the music most of all. “I should say it’s the history, but it’s the music,” she said.

Accompanied by ragtime music, which FitzHenry calls “glorious,” the director said the choreography of the era was a learning experience for her. “Stylistically the audience will recognize the period dances,” she said.

Though this musical is a community theater performance, FitzHenry praised the talent.

“[In community theater] you get performers who are every bit as good as those in New York - they’ve just made other life choices,” she said.

Similar to the book version, FitzHenry said the musical is more uplifting than the movie version. “It has comedy, drama and is appropriate for families,” she said and added there is some subject matter families should discuss with children.

“Ragtime” will play for three weekends - May 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22. For ticket information, call 860-292-6068 or visit www.operahouseplayers.org or www.click4tix.com

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