It wasn't a difficult decision to bring in Frank Galati as the director. Galati had made a name for himself as an ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theatre and an associate director at the Goodman Theatre. Edwards commented that Galati was a "remote iconic figure" to him at the time. Today, he is well-known to Sarasota audiences for his direction of shows at Asolo Rep, including this season's Rhinoceros.
|Terrence McNally and Michael Donald Edwards|
"It was an unusual birth of a musical," McNally noted. But it worked.
The production -- with a cast of 50+ actors and a full orchestra -- opened in 1998. The show received 12 Tony nominations and won in four categories, with statuettes going to McNally for best book of a musical, Flaherty and Ahrens for best original score, Audra McDonald for best actress in a musical and William David Brohn for best orchestration. McNally shared that, despite the musical's success, its investors didn't quite make back their money.
As to whether Ragtime will resonate in today's world, McNally commented that its themes of racism and xenophobia are more relevant than ever. But the novel -- and, presumably, the musical -- don't leave you with a feeling of despair.
"The nature of the novel makes you aspire to be a better person," he said, "And proud to be an American."
In Part II of this blog, I'll share Rothstein's approach to paring down the musical to a manageable size without being reductive. McNally said he is excited to see this re-envisioning of Ragtime. That makes two of us.