Where: Inner London
5 November 2001 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Is there a strong case to be made for Rags, one of those fabled flops beloved of musical theatre aficionados and cabaret buffs, but unknown outside of that small circle? Certainly the show - which ran for just four performances in its original Broadway run in August 1996 - has a couple of wonderful melodies that stir the heart and live on in the brain. "Children of the Wind", in particular, and "Blame it on the Summer Night" are stirringly aching anthems that, in their music by Charles Strouse ( Annie) and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz ( Godspell, Pippin), throb with sincerity and good intentions.
The show that contains them, with its earnest, diligent book by Joseph Stein (
Fiddler on the Roof) that charts the Jewish immigrant experience of arriving in New York at the turn of the last century, has a similar spirit. And as lovingly realised in the busily detailed production here of Matthew White, it is beautifully done.
But despite these and other virtues - including a blazingly good performance by
Sally Ann Triplett, eschewing the glamour of her recent Pizza on the Park cabaret set to offer a tremendously sung but appropriately dowdy portrait of its downtrodden lead character - the show just doesn't catch fire.
This is the fourth time I have seen the show in different guises - twice in New York, twice here - and the Bridewell's is probably the most persuasive account I have yet encountered. But, long though I do to embrace it, I still cannot. Perhaps its call on your heartstrings is just too blatant, sentimental and schematic. The dramaturgy is more turgid than dramatic, though the individual plights of each character are convincingly drawn. And as brought to life by a terrific cast here, they are given their full measure.
But even if the show is less than the sum of its parts, the Bridewell proves yet again to be the perfect home for it. And presented as part of the JC Festival of Jewish Arts and Culture, I am also encouraged to report that it found the theatre at its fullest I've seen for some time. The show, however, remains a flawed if fascinating failure.
Mark Shenton Related Content
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