11th January 2020
Review by Shaun Tossell
RAGS The Musical finally makes it way to London, coming to the Park Theatre, after first debuting on Broadway in 1986.
This is a transfer of the UK premiere of a newly reworked version, which premiered early last year at Manchester’s premier fringe venue, the Hope Mill Theatre.
RAGS The Musical tells the powerful tale of Jewish immigrants in 1910’s New York. It centres on a Russian immigrant Rebecca, who comes to America with her young son to escape the horrors of their past and make a fresh start for them both.
They find solace with other Jewish immigrants who are also desperately trying to make a better life for themselves, fighting against exploitation, prejudice whilst trying to hold on to their identities.
This production has assembled an embarrassingly talented cast.
Carolyn Maitland leads the cast, bringing a steely resolve to the role of young mother, Rebecca. She is a magnetic presence throughout the show, stunning the audience with her huge, emotive vocals.
Dave Willetts charms, playing the anxious, cranky Avram, whilst also giving the show one of its most powerful moments. He bounces wonderfully opposite the amusingly droll Rachel Izen, as widower Rachel.
Other standouts include Oisin Nolan-Power as the lovestruck Ben and Martha Kirby as dreamer Bella, both engaging with their sweet chemistry.
Also Alex Gibson-Giorgio, who gives an impassioned performance as Italian immigrant, Sal.
The actor-muso ensemble effortlessly interweave throughout out the show, adding a special quality to the production.
The production design, ingeniously utilises old suitcases throughout the show, symbolising the plight of the immigrant.
Director Bronagh Lagan implements these clever ideas throughout the show, working wonders in such an intimate space, with the choreography by Philip Thomas complementing them wonderfully.
The real star of the show are the absolutely gorgeous songs from Charles Strouse (Annie) and Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), which have been reworked extensively for this new production.
The glorious ragtime music, contrasting with the evocative Jewish influences. The beautiful ballads of the show are highlights, especially “Edge of a Knife” and “Children of the Wind”.
RAGS The Musical is a heartbreaking tale of love, loss & hope. Its story is far too relevant still. This beautiful production is a triumph. Go see it now!
RAGS The Musical is playing at Park Theatre until 8th February 2020.
Tickets & more info – https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/rags-the-musical/about
Photo credit – Pamela Raith