Directed by: Lee Foster
Featuring: C.J. Blankenship, Annmarie Martin, Richard Ames , Tyler Bennett, Kyra Bowser, Steven Brown, Stephanie Case, Victoria Davis, Andreya Dodson, Steven Ennis, Sara Faye Goldrath, Katherine Green, Alan Hafter, Don Hardwick, Adrienne Herro, Leslie Ivy, Brie Jones, Leah Kalish, James Kason, Helen Laroche, Minie Lopez, David Martin, Rich Matli, Connor Macmillen, Michelle Mccomb, Jamie Mckenzie, Mark Metzler, Joe Murphy, Sara Rangel Murphy, David Navarro, Will Palomares, Regina Quigley, Erica Richardson, John Rinaldi, Alex Rubin, Marlena Segi, Len Shaffer, Amie Shapiro, Alyssa Sims, Cairo Spencer, Kevin Stanford, Gary Stanford Jr., Scott Stanley, Lindsay Stark, Tabitha Tetreault, Jon Toussaint, Tristan Toy, Jason Williams, Max Williams, Laura Woodruff.
When: August 30 through September 23, 2012
Tickets: $21-$38. Call 650-349-6411, extension 2, or visit Hillbarn's ticket sales page.
Why stage "Ragtime the Musical," which is huge, at Hillbarn Theatre, which is not huge?
"For a few reasons," explained Hillbarn Executive Producing Director Lee Foster, in a recent phone call. "Number One, it's one of the most extraordinary pieces of theater I've ever seen. Its impact is enormous. And I think we can do it justice.
"And, it fits into our season. It opens our 72nd season, and our theme for the season is 'Occupy Theatre.' We're focusing on social consciousness, really thinking about who we are as a community, state and nation. ... I feel that theater, that exposure to theater, can bring some ideas and consciousness to us that otherwise we might not know.
"It's wonderful to do this just before the November election."
"Ragtime" is based on the brilliant 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, a majestic book that touched on key changes in America in the very early 20th century, as the nation was moving from a mostly agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy, and dealing with an influx of immigrants just before The Great War erupted in Europe.
For the stage, Terrence McNally wrote the book, Lynn Ahrens provided lyrics, and the music is by Stephen Flaherty. It is a sung-through musical, which means very little straight dialogue. It focuses on three groups: Wealthy white Americans, black Americans, and immigrants.
"It really spoke to me," Foster said, about when she saw it performed on Broadway, and, later, at Broadway By The Bay.
Doctorow's novel is wide-ranging yet intimate, a brilliant piece of prose.
The Broadway musical was perhaps too lavish, staged in 1996, a time for lavish, "expense-account musicals" built for tourists and business travelers. It was nominated for 13 Tony awards in 1998, but lost the main Tony, for best musical, to Julie Taymor's "The Lion King."
The Hillbarn production is no piker either, though, featuring a beautiful, two-story stage piece, and an impressive Model T car for Coalhouse to celebrate.
"Incidentally," Foster mentioned, "This is my directing debut at Hillbarn. Fourteen years I've been at Hillbarn. It took me this long to feel like I was ready."
Foster is finishing up an MA in fine arts at Notre Dame de Namur. To go along, perhaps, with her MBA from the University of San Francisco.
She is nothing if not productive.
Foster worked in marketing and sales, joined the board of Hillbarn Theatre, then became the administrative big boss, and proceeded to build the company's subscription base and artistic reputation.
But direct a show? Not till "Ragtime."
She'd been working on the show for seven months already when we spoke, not long before "Ragtime" opened on August 30, 2012. "Nervous? Yes," she said, "But it's a measured nervousness. We've done our homework. We're completely prepared. ... We all killed ourselves to make this happen.
"It's rare in this world that everyone is on the same page. But that is what's happened here. I've been here for 48 days straight, no breaks.
"But it's worth it, for every reason."