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STEFANI DIAS: 'Ragtime' a powerful portrait of America

A tale of America's melting pot, immigrants striving to succeed, artists yearning to be accepted and a woman struggling under the yoke society has imposed. Opening Friday at Stars Theatre Restaurant, "Ragtime" is set at the turn of the 20th century but it's as relevant today, taking on race and class distinctions that still plague society.

These are "issues that are unfortunately alive and well in America currently," director Bruce Saathoff wrote in an email. "It also deals with changing relationships mixed with changing times and circumstances. Pretty timeless."

With its powerful story and magnificent score, "Ragtime" is Saathoff's favorite musical but originally work conflicts were going to keep him from the production. Then, when the person set to direct had to drop out, Saathoff said, "I figured it was fate since I love the show so much."

Although featuring notable people of the time — activists Emma Goldman (Stephanie Cervantes) and Booker T. Washington (Kenneth Whitchard), entertainers Harry Houdini (Zachary Gonzalez) and Evelyn Nesbit (Kelci Lowry) and tycoons Henry Ford (Brent Rochon) and JP Morgan (Mark Prow) — the musical focuses primarily on more everyday people: a middle-class white family run by the unnamed Mother (Jennifer Prow) and Father (Tim Armijo); a Latvian immigrant, Tateh (Guy Martin), and his daughter (Giselle Alaniz); and a brash Harlem musician (Tevin Joslen) and his love (Caley Mayhall), who face prejudice for their interracial relationship and child born out of wedlock.

"Ragtime" features a mix of musical styles, and audiences should prepare for the songs: more than three-quarters of the show is sung."

"The show has a large and diverse cast that sounds amazing vocally thanks to Brock Christian," Saathoff said.

"Ragtime" opens Friday and runs through May 13. Purchase tickets at

Make haste on tickets

Shakespeare lovers, take heart. Knowing what a good thing it has on its hands, the Bakersfield Museum of Art has opened up seats for the previously sold-out showings of "The Very Ecstasy of Love." This outdoor production brings some of Shakespeare’s greatest couples — Romeo and Juliet, Kate and Petruchio, Beatrice and Benedick — to life in a unique interwoven tale using the Bard’s words.

Director Jennifer Sampson said a few reserved seats ($45, $40 for members) have been opened up for the performances on April 27-29. Call the museum at 323-7219 to snag a seat.

'Adventures' time

Now that kids are in the home stretch of the school year, parents should already be looking for some summer activities. North of the River Junior Theatre is holding auditions Saturday for its production of "Adventures of Tom Sawyer," the first of its 50th season.

Parts are divided into "child" and "adult" roles with the kids meant to be played by performers 13 and under and the adults played by teens, according to director Cody Ganger. She said that is only a guideline and the cast will be determined by the performers who audition.

The musical follows the exploits of Mark Twain's irrepressible young protagonist, who always finds himself up with mischief with Huckleberry Finn and his pals when he's not matching wits with Aunt Polly.

Auditions will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. for actors from kindergarten through junior high and 1 to 3 p.m. for high school-age actors Saturday at Rasmussen Senior Center, 115 E Roberts Lane.

Cost is $95, $80 for NOR residents, and the performance dates are July 28 and 29.


Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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