On Saturday, October 16, 2021, the Delta Symphony Orchestra and The Link Theater Group held their first live production in partnership with the Fowler Center since February 2020. The show was a rendition of the literary and Broadway classic, Ragtime The Musical by playwright Terrence McNally.
Ragtime is a coming-of-age story set in the 1900s at a point in American history when immigrants and minoritized groups aimed to make their mark in America and follow the American Dream. At the same time, racial bigotry was an unfortunate backdrop to everyday interactions.
Ragtime, of course, featured musical renditions and stylings of the trendy ragtime music of the late 1800s and early 1900s. One particular Ragtime star of the day was Scott Joplin, whose been dubbed the “King of Ragtime”. Joplin, a native of Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas, was very influential in the musical genre in which he composed and produced over 100 songs.
The overall premise and takeaway from the production are that many of the same problems America is currently battling are literal continuous social uprisings from the past. Celebrity obsession, greed, capitalism, racism, and social inequalities are all newsworthy headlines in the 21st century. This suggests that we have ultimately not learned from our past transgressions as a nation and have a lot more to acknowledge before accurate and actionable work can be achieved.
Saturday’s evening show was followed by the final matinee presentation on Sunday. The cast featured a mixture of local, regional, and Broadway talent. I certainly enjoyed the performances and walked away feeling both excited and inspired by the restart of theater arts in Northeast Arkansas.
I’m sincerely looking forward to upcoming productions from the Link Theater and the DSO. For a glimpse at Ragtime The Musical, check out the following video clip of Ragtime The Musical on Broadway with the 1998 cast at the Tony Awards below!