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Condit: The Words of E.L. Doctorow Live On

Friday, July 24, 2015

 

The historical fiction author, E.L. Doctorow, died on Tuesday, yet his words live on through the award-winning music of Ragtime the Musical. The 82-year old author was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the National Book Critics Circle award, along with National Book Awards for his work over the last 40 years.

Doctorow is most famous for the series of novels he wrote that depicted major societal shifts in American history. The author had a way of weaving the political, economic and social struggle of characters living in tumultuous times from the 1800s to the 1930’s. For someone who wasn’t well known in his younger years, he became known in his later years as a representative of liberal consciousness, not just a successful writer and editor.

Although Doctorow received recognition for “The March,” “The Waterworks,” “Billy Bathgate,” “Loon Lake,” “World’s Fair,” “The Book of Daniel,” and “Welcome to Hard Times,” “Ragtime” was the book that sold millions and inspired Ragtime the Musical, with his words living on through the lyrics of this Tony Award-winning musical. When asked if he was pleased with the Broadway musical, he told the Washington Post that he was grateful to the creative team behind the original production, and he especially liked that lines from the book were incorporated into the songs the characters sing to express their emotions and describe their struggles.

Nominated for thirteen Tony Awards and thirteen Drama Desk Awards, Ragtime the Musical won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Audra McDonald) and Best Orchestrations. It also won Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Orchestrations, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music. While the musical helps the audience to gain perspective on the different influences and pressures that an upper middle class family, immigrant family, and African Americans experienced during the early 1900s in New York, it’s the music that really sets it apart.

Check out the original cast performing the iconic opening number at the Tony Awards and you’ll get a good glimpse of the musical. Surely, Edgar Lawrence Doctorow can rest in peace knowing his influence continues to be felt, not just through his words on the pages of his books, but in the voices of cast members that reach new audiences now and well into the future. While single tickets are not on sale yet, Ragtime the Musical is part of The Hanover Theatre’s 2015-2016 Subscription Series and will play from January 29-31, 2016. “One of the best musicals in recent decades,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, I am looking forward to seeing how the story of an upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician unfolds before my eyes. It’s the perfect tribute to a man who expanded our consciousness to experience what is described as a “timeless celebration of life…what it could and should be!”

 

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