Ragtime is playing at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara on the Lake this year and as White Oaks Resort is one of their tourism partners, I was lucky enough to get an invite to their Tourism Night! I love musicals of any kind, being a former music student, back in my youth…way back, I might add. Yes, way, way back.
I really didn’t know much about the story of Ragtime or the musical numbers in it and this is by no means an official review of the play – as I’m really not qualified to do that (I believe I have already mentioned it was quite some time ago that this was my world…ahem) so it was a delight to become engrossed in the story and escape into the world of Sarah and Coalhouse. I will say this about the performance of Thom Allison who plays Coalhouse and Alanna Hibbert who plays Sarah: It was at times mesmerizing with an occasional dash of chills running up and down my spine! Powerful, controlled performances wrenched with emotion. (That’s pretty good review writing actually..I should speak to the Shaw peeps and see if they need anymore stuff like that).
Before the show begins, a nice Niagara wine can be had from the lobby bar and a stroll in the beautiful garden and patio. Just before evening curtain is a lovely time of night to sit out there and overlook the commons. Now, I need to share this with you as well, which I found very helpful and considerate. During the first act, you know, since I had enjoyed my glass of wine (or two) before the curtain went up, I found myself how should I put this…anticipating the intermission with some urgency, if you know what I mean. The urgency went from pressing to well, frantic and for the first time in my entire life, I was that person who had to climb over half a row of people whispering “sorry, excuse me, I do apologize, omigosh was that your foot?” I got to the doors and had to ask the attendant how to get out and she had to escort me – so I disturbed her as well. Jeez! Mortifying but I assure you entirely necessary!
With my business conducted in the loo, I calmly ventured back to the waiting usher and found that there was a TV set up on the wall, so that people like me, can watch from the lobby and wait for an appropriate break in the performance to re-enter the theatre. This is probably not a new feature or even unique to the Shaw but having never actually left a performance in the middle of an act , ever before in my life, I’ve never noticed this anywhere else. Brilliant! Considerate for the weak- bladdered amoung us! Sometimes it’s these little details that make an impression. I returned to my seat, hardly disturbing anyone except the poor lady who I stumbled over and banged my head on her knee, which really hurt me more than it hurt her and I hardly think there was any need for her to yelp like an injured puppy over it. Honestly, some people.
So I would say to anyone visiting Niagara this season, go and see Ragtime – it is stupendous, in my entirely unprofessional opinion. I would just ensure you visit the restroom before the curtain goes up…especially if you are over 40…I’m just saying.