Marriott Theatre RAGTIME Review – The Great American Musical

A gunshot fires as a man steps from the J.P Morgan Library.

In this moment our hearts collectively break as we know justice has not been served. But such is the times for our heroes in America circa 1906. Life is not fair, but the times are changing as we’re taken back to the turn of the century in Marriott’s recent production of RAGTIME.

Marriott Theatre Takes Us Back

At first the stage reminds us of the picturesque “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”. The greenest grass with the whitest people dressed in their Sunday best. Suddenly with the opening number “Ragtime,” it’s not just white people anymore.

The rest of our cast comes rushing onstage, immigrants and African Americans taking up space. This picture of America is not just for the upper white class anymore. This is a place where norms are about to be shaken.

Marriott Theatre RAGTIME
The cast of Ragtime featuring Michelle Lauto (center) Photo: Liz Lauren

And so, we follow our representatives of these three American people - Coalhouse Walker Jr., a ragtime pianist, Tateh, a Jewish immigrant, and Mother, a sheltered upper-class housewife. We watch as they each go through their walks of life, as their stories intertwine, and as they change each other along the way.

Marriott Theatre RAGTIME
The cast of Ragtime in the opening number Photo: Liz Lauren
Marriott Theatre RAGTIME
The cast of Ragtime featuring Nathaniel Stampley (left) Photo: Liz Lauren

Stage & Sound Grip Us

When the ushers cautioned us the first act is 90 minutes and to please remain seated the whole time, we immediately begin to brace ourselves for the long haul. But the time flies by and it feels like it’s all but over too soon.

The stage design by Jeff Kmiec is stunning and simple. With minimum set pieces moving on and off, it’s just enough to give us a sense of our current setting. The set also punctuates our casts movements with pieces of the stage rising and falling during key moments.

The music of RAGTIME is sure to get any musical lover on their feet. It’s rife with crescendo-ing showstoppers like “Wheels of a Dream” and “Back to Before” as well as ragtime numbers, marches, and polkas. You can also read more about ragtime music style with Picture This Post's coverage of the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation's Centennial Festival.

Marriott’s Star Power

Our cast delivers these numbers with such ferocity and passion we’re gripped through every song.

Kathy Voytko as Mother delivers an engaging performance as we see her grow out of her shell when Father leaves her in charge of the household. She begins to make decisions for herself and embrace the changing society around her.

Benjamin Magnuson as Tateh is utterly charming as a doting father and nearly drives us to tears as he loses his faith in the American dream.

And finally, Katherine Thomas and Nathaniel Stampley as Sarah and Coalhouse have us thoroughly captivated in their love story. Thomas recently appeared in Griffin Theatre’s production of Ragtime where she also stunned as Sarah - you can read our review here.

We feel their passion and connection to each other as well as their pain and struggle in a racist America.

Marriott Theatre RAGTIME
Katherine Thomas as Sarah Photo: Liz Lauren

Resonating Messages

In the opening number as J.P. Morgan says “Certain men make a country great,” a shudder ran through this writer as it harkens back to a certain president’s motto. It’s an immediate call that this musical is not one with themes that we left in the past. It’s as though someone wrote RAGTIME in 2018 but simply set it in 1906.

Though the original musical was produced in 1996 and based off E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 book, it’s absolutely astounding how close RAGTIME comes to reflecting our time today. The message is especially poignant during this time when those who aren’t white men are fighting back for their voices to be heard and fighting for a place at the table.

Marriott’s RAGTIME is an impassioned cry for intersectionality as it reflects issues still prevalent today. Though RAGTIME might not be a good pick for someone who likes to leave their politics at the door, it’s a good pick for anyone who loves shows that engage with our current culture.


Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.


Now through March 18, 2018
Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. (select Thursday 1:00p.m. performances)
Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.


Marriott Theatre
10 Marriott Dr.
Lincolnshire, IL 60069


$50 to $60
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or by visiting the Marriott Theatre website

Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of dinner-theatre packages available for purchase through the Marriott Theatre Box Office.


Liz Lauren


Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago

Marriott Theatre RAGTIME
Kathy Voytko as Mother Photo Liz Lauren
Alexis Bugajski Photo: Liz Lin

About the Author

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

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