The musical "Ragtime" is set during a time of massive change. Adapted from the novel by E.L. Doctorow, it simultaneously takes on the legacy of slavery, the immigrant experience, and the grinding change to the status quo of the comfortably wealthy.
Created originally as a large Broadway fanfare, Park Square Theatre has toned down its production. Critics say this allows more room for the characters to breathe, and connect with the audience.
Scroll down to read excerpts of reviews - click on the links to read them in their entirety.
Brittany Bradford in the role of Sarah in Park Square's production of "Ragtime"
Gary Gisselman's grand production... unequivocally aims for our hearts with these stories. Yet it would diminish the value of both the musical and Gisselman's treatment here to label the work merely sentimental. "Ragtime" takes a brisk and unflinching assessment of a society caught in the jaws of change, and creates central characters defined by bravery, pain, decency and a bedrock dedication to life. The portrayals are necessarily thin because "Ragtime" is more or less a narrated pageant; but writer Terrence McNally and lyricist Lynn Ahrens mine enough of Doctorow's plot to provide texture.
This production feels absolutely essential by showing us American history through the lens of family.
Brittany Bradford as Sarah and Harry Waters, Jr. as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Park Square Theatre's production of "Ragtime"
...Any misgivings about the material are mooted by the loveliness of the production. Great praise is due director Gary Gisselman who, working with a limited budget, has assembled a boffo cast, first rate musicians, excellent designers and a terrific choreographer. He stages the show with aplomb.
With the spectacle toned down, the characters have a chance to take center stage, and the show takes on a life that the massive Broadway production could never manage. The flaws are still there, especially in a second act that loses the central thread of the story for long stretches, but it's easier to get swept along with this production.
Dieter Bierbrauer as Tateh in Park Square Theatre's production of "Ragtime"
It's a production that is beautifully sung by its leading players and its extraordinary chorus, whose members not only blow us away with their gorgeous voices but also their ability to perform quick costume changes and enact, believably, a variety of nonspeaking roles. The music in the enormous musical, the largest production ever mounted at Park Square, is consistently excellent, but it's in the acting that "Ragtime" occasionally falls short.
"Ragtime" runs through February 19 at Park Square Theatre. Have you seen the show? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.
Q: How do you get people excited about urban design?
A: Hold a video competition.
At least that's the answer that came to Architecture Minnesota magazine.
Last year Architecture Minnesota held the first annual "Videotect" competition, asking for people to submit short films on the topic of Minnesota's most controversial urban design element - skyways.
Last year's Videotect Grand Prize Winning entry
The competition, culminating in a live screening at the Walker Art Center of the most popular candidates, was a hit according to Architecture Minnesota editor Chris Hudson:
We knew that with a public video competition we wouldn't necessarily get highly prescriptive commentary, but we guessed--and guessed right--that what the entries lacked in analysis they would more than make up for in entertainment value. Bringing entertainment to urban design discussions is a pretty cool thing, in our eyes.
Honorable Mention and Viewers' Choice Finalist for the 2011 competition
Videotect is back this year for round two. This time the topic is "sustainable transportation and its enhancement through quality design" and each video has to be two minutes or less in length.
39 videos were submitted to this year's competition, predominantly from Minnesota, but also Oregon, Illinois, and New York, and from as far away as China, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Hudson ultimately sees Videotect becoming a popular international competition.
You can watch the videos, and vote for your favorites here.
One of this year's entries in the Videotect competition
Voting for the people's choice award runs through Friday, however tomorrow afternoon I'll be sitting down with fellow panel judges to pick our favorites. And trust me, it's not going to be easy!
This year there will be a screening of finalists on March 1 at the Walker Art Center, culminating in a vote for the popular choice winner. The creators of the winning videos will be awarded $2000 (for Grand Prize and Popular Choice) and $500 (for Honorable Mention) respectively.
Another entry in this year's Videotect competition