National tour of ‘Ragtime’ stops in Waterbury
For Texas-born actor Chris Sams, the joy that comes from starring in the national touring production of “Ragtime” is almost too overwhelming to describe.
And that’s saying a lot about Sams, who graduated a while back with a bachelor’s degree from West Texas A&M University with a speech and communications degree.
Although “Ragtime” is not his first national tour or cruise-ship production, it is one of his favorites.
“It’s so cool,” said the 30-something Sams, who portrays musician Coal House Walker Jr. “Traveling from city to city, state to state (gives us) this wonderful opportunity to tell a great story. Sometimes we fly, but for the most part, we’re a traditional bus-and-truck tour.”
One of the cities the cast will visit is Waterbury, where the production, described as “ravishing and relevant,” stops at the Palace Theater for three performances on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 22-23.
Described by Bloomberg News as “explosive, thrilling and nothing short of a masterpiece,” the all-new touring production will include 9-year-old Jackson Amos, of New Milford, who will portray Walker as a youngster. The son of Carrie and Ed Amos, Jackson attends the Academy of International Studies magnet school in Danbury.
The Palace noted that E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, which won the National Book Critics Circle award, sold 4.5 million copies. It became a film in 1981, and a Broadway hit musical in 1998. The tour is based on the 2009 Broadway revival that received “rapturous reviews,” the Palace said in its announcement.
Set in New York City, at the dawn of the 20th century, the play — which won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Musical Score — is described as a timeless celebration of life and hope, focusing on three characters: an upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician, Coal House Walker.
“It’s an awesome role. He’s a dockworker who saves his money for piano lessons and becomes the toast of New York’s music world.
“It’s a story about the rise of the middle class and a celebration of the ideals of rugged individualism,” Sams said in a telephone chat during a Florida tour stop. “This is the promise of the nation and of ‘Ragtime,’ ” prior to the 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression.
“I think the most rewarding part of this experience is being able to present (these ideas) to audiences and to know they are listening and receiving our message: We are all people with wants and dreams. It’s a musical that asks you to look at yourself and immediate circumstances before considering (or judging) your fellow man.”
“Ragtime” features a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Tony-nominated director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge is in charge of the production organized by Phoenix Entertainment.
Before the Friday evening performance, the theater will host a 6 p.m. prix-fixe, four-course dinner at the Poli Club, on the mezzanine level. Dinner is $62.50, which includes tax, service fees, coffee and tea. A cash bar also will be available. Reservations may be made when purchasing tickets through the box office.
The Palace Theater, 100 E. Main St., Waterbury. Friday-Saturday, Jan. 22-23, 8 p.m., also Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $75 to $50, plus transaction fees; no extra fees at the box office. 203-346-2000, ragtimeontour.com or palacetheaterct.org