The Tin Pan Alley Rag
The Tin Pan Alley Rag – Theater Review
“The Tin Pan Alley Rag” tells the story of an imagined meeting of two of America’s greatest musicians, composer Scott Joplin and songwriter Irving Berlin. Joplin was a musical prodigy, born the son of a slave, who received a conservatory education and slowly rose to acclaim. Berlin was a Russian Jewish immigrant who couldn’t read music, yet catapulted to stardom at the age of 23. Both men changed the landscape of music forever with their contributions to the first American musical genre, ragtime. Beneath Joplin and Berlin’s toe-tapping, syncopated rhythms lay fascinating stories of fame, love and loss. In The Tin Pan Alley Rag, these tales come to vivid life and two great icons realize they have more in common than they ever suspected.
“The Tin Pan Alley Rag” is about a theoretical meeting between Irving Berlin, who was the rock star, the most famous composer of his time, and Scott Joplin, who was the king of ragtime. The play with music focuses on what might have happened had they met each other, played together, and inspired each other. And in fact, Irving Berlin was the one who was responsible for getting Scott Joplin rag opera performed years after he died. This is a really interesting notion and the two leads are terrific in terms of giving you some idea of who they were; they actually even look like the people that they’re portraying in terms of the posters in the lobby. The problem is it’s two acts. It should have been one because when you try and spread material too thinly you get saggy parts. The final scene in act one and the final scene in act two are both terrific, but there’s a lot of not-so-terrific in between. This is a play that really needs some tightening up. On the other hand, it is interesting, the music is lovely, there are some genuinely touching moments. So I would give it three stars.