Act I 
New Rochelle, New York, 1906. A large Victorian house on Broadview 
Avenue, the home of an upper middle class family: Father, who has 
derived his wealth from the manufacture of fireworks, flags and bunting; 
Mother; their son, the Little Boy; and Mother's Younger Brother, a 
genius at explosives who works in Father's fireworks factory. This is 
the Gilded Age, an era of industrialization, when prospects for wealth 
and happiness seem to be boundless. Everything is new and anything is 
In Harlem, crowds dance to the music of ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker 
Jr. In Latvia, a widower named Tateh dreams of escaping with his 
daughter, the Little Girl, to America. 
America is filled with famous characters: mesmerizing illusionist and 
escape artist Harry Houdini ... J.P. Morgan, the wealthiest man in 
America ... radical anarchist Emma Goldman ... chorus girl Evelyn 
Nesbit, former mistress of Stanford White, the brilliant architect who 
has been slain by Nesbit's millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw. Called 
the "Crime of the Century," this murder has scandalized the nation (
On the dock of New York Harbor, Mother bids farewell to Father who is 
joining Admiral Peary on an expedition to the North Pole (Goodbye, My 
Love). As the boat disappears into the distance, another appears. It is 
a rag ship sailing to America, carrying refugees from western and 
eastern Europe, including Tateh and the Little Girl (Journey On). 
Infatuated with Evelyn Nesbit, Younger Brother visits a vaudeville house 
in Manhattan every night to see her perform (The Crime of the Century). 
One night, a news photographer waits for Evelyn. She kisses Younger 
Brother merely for the publicity, then saunters away, leaving Younger 
Brother heartbroken and disillusioned. 
In New Rochelle, Mother, who is planting in her garden, is shocked when 
she finds a black infant boy. The police arrive with Sarah, the scared 
and mute mother of the child. Before the police can charge Sarah with 
attempted murder, Mother intervenes, saying she will take responsibility 
for Sarah and her baby. Mother brings them into her home (What Kind of 
On Ellis Island, crowds of immigrants, including Tateh and the Little 
Girl, arrive, delirious with joy and optimism (A Shtetl Iz Amereke . 
Success). On the streets of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Tateh 
calls out from his cart to passersby, offering to sell them paper 
silhouette portraits, with very little success. Months pass. Tateh's 
desperation increases. A man stops, but instead of buying a silhouette, 
he asks Tateh to sell him the Little Girl. Enraged, Tateh attacks the 
man. Full of self doubt, Tateh wonders whether America's golden promise 
was only a lie. In his disillusionment, he has a vision of Harry 
Houdini. Tateh is inspired to escape his own confining circumstances. He 
sells his cart and, with the Little Girl, leaves New York on a trolley. 
The little money he has will take them as far as Boston. 
In the Tempo Nightclub in Harlem, Coalhouse Walker Jr. entertains the 
crowd. While introducing one of his numbers, he reminisces about a woman 
he loved named Sarah, and vows to win her back (Gettin' Ready Rag). 
Henry Ford and his assembly line appear before Coalhouse in an 
apparition and he watches intently while a Model T is built (Henry Ford. 
This is the new mass production technology that will transform the 
country and the world. Coalhouse buys one of these new cars. 
In New Rochelle, Coalhouse asks firemen outside the Emerald Isle 
firehouse for directions to Broadview Avenue. Chief Willie Conklin 
forbids Coalhouse to pass and forces him to turn back. In the house on 
Broadview Avenue, Sarah sings a lullaby to her child (Your Daddy's Son). 
Coalhouse arrives and asks to speak with Sarah. Sarah refuses to see 
him. Coalhouse leaves, but persistently returns every Sunday for several 
weeks, hoping Sarah will speak with him. Finally Mother invites 
Coalhouse in for tea. Coalhouse tells Mother he is a musician, and she 
invites him to play a tune on the piano. Coalhouse obliges, playing a 
ragtime melody. 
Five months pass. One Sunday, Father returns home unannounced from the 
North Pole. Surprised to see Sarah, her baby and Coalhouse in his house 
and to learn about Sarah's predicament, Father wonders whether he has 
been away too long. Mother ponders why they have grown apart, and are 
unable to experience the love that Coalhouse has for Sarah, a sentiment 
shared by Younger Brother. Sarah finally heeds Coalhouse's words of love 
and comes downstairs into his embrace (New Music). Coalhouse takes Sarah 
and their baby for a ride in his new Model T. Coalhouse promises Sarah 
that this is the beginning of a new life and a better time for them and 
their son (Wheels of a Dream). 
In Lawrence, Massachusetts, Tateh works in front of a loom for 64 hours 
a week for just under six dollars. One day, the workers go on strike. In 
New York, at a rally at a workmen's hall in Union Square, Younger 
Brother hears Emma Goldman call for a general strike in support of the 
striking mill workers (The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square). 
Inspired by her passionate words, Younger Brother calls out his support. 
Within three days, every mill in Lawrence is shut down. Factory owners 
call in the militia to protect their property. Tateh puts the Little 
Girl on a train that will take her to a home for safety. A riot breaks 
out. Tateh hears the panic stricken cries of his daughter as the train 
begins to move. Tateh runs and ultimately pulls himself onto the train. 
He comforts the Little Girl with a flip book of silhouette images of her 
skating that move as he flicks the pages (Gliding). A Conductor is 
attracted by the moving picture book and buys it. 
In New Rochelle, Coalhouse and Sarah drive by the Emerald Isle 
firehouse. Again, Willie Conklin and the firemen block their way. Willie 
speaks abusively to Coalhouse, demanding twenty-five dollars, claiming 
that Coalhouse is driving on a private toll road. Wanting to confront 
the firemen on his own, Coalhouse orders Sarah to leave. 
Coalhouse leaves the car to look for a policeman. The firemen vandalize 
and destroy the car. Coalhouse returns. Seeing what they have done, he 
vows to find justice. Increasingly frustrated and outraged by 
bureaucratic apathy and ineptitude and the law's delay, Coalhouse 
proclaims he will not marry until his property is restored to him (
Justice). Sarah is shattered, but she is determined to help Coalhouse. 
At a political rally, she attempts to speak with the Republican 
vice-presidential candidate (President). The police, thinking Sarah is 
armed, club her with their nightsticks. She dies. Coalhouse, Mother, 
Younger Brother, Tateh, Emma Goldman and Sarah's friends mourn her death 
(Till We Reach That Day). 

Act II 
In New Rochelle's Main Street Theatre, Harry Houdini is handcuffed 
inside a packing case. Willie Conklin and his firemen then place a 
package of dynamite inside with him while the Little Boy looks on. The 
firemen nail the case shut and it is lifted above the stage. The case 
explodes in mid-air and falls open. It is empty (Harry Houdini, Master 
Escapist). Suddenly, in his bed in the house on Broadview Avenue, the 
Little Boy sits up, wide awake. Houdini's escape was a nightmare, and 
the Little Boy senses that many people are about to die. 
Coalhouse has begun a reign of vengeance and terror, killing firemen and 
burning down firehouses. Coalhouse declares he will agree to end the 
violence when his car is restored to him in its original condition and 
Willie Conklin is turned over to him (Coalhouse's Soliloquy . Coalhouse 
In New Rochelle, reporters and photographers descend upon the house, 
searching for information about Coalhouse. Tension grips Mother, Father 
and Younger Brother. Father chides Mother for taking Sarah in, blaming 
her "foolish female sentimentality." Younger Brother defends Coalhouse 
and attacks Father for his complacency. Younger Brother angrily leaves. 
To relieve the pressure, Father takes the child to a baseball game. 
Father's expectations of a civilized afternoon are disrupted by the 
rowdy behavior of the many immigrants and lower class people in the 
crowd (What a Game). 
Back home, reporters continue to besiege Father and his family. Father 
suggests that the family take a trip to Atlantic City to escape the 
harassment (Atlantic City . New Music (Reprise)). 
On Atlantic City's boardwalk, elegant vacationers are filmed by the 
Baron Ashkenazy, a director (Atlantic City, Part II . The Crime of the 
Century / Harry Houdini Master Escapist (Reprise)). The Baron introduces 
himself to Mother and her family and tells them about his career in the 
new motion picture industry (Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.). 
As evening falls, Evelyn Nesbit and Harry Houdini stroll on the 
boardwalk and meet. Disillusioned they commiserate about how fast the 
world is changing and how fleeting their fame is. 
The next morning, Mother and the Baron chat while his daughter and the 
Little Boy play together. Mother is attracted by the Baron's charm; he 
is drawn to her kindness. The Baron confides that he is not really a 
Baron. He is Tateh, a poor immigrant Jew who wants to give his daughter 
a better future. Mother is moved, and says she is happy their children 
are friends (Our Children). 
In Harlem, Younger Brother searches the streets for Coalhouse, but he is 
greeted with derision and told to leave. He meets one of Coalhouse's 
followers who takes him to their hideout. As they depart, Coalhouse 
emerges from the shadows. Seeing two lovers on the street, Coalhouse 
reminisces about the first time he met Sarah (Sarah Brown Eyes). Younger 
Brother arrives at the hideout, blindfolded (He Wanted To Say). 
Coalhouse allows Younger Brother to join him and his men, vowing that 
with Younger Brother's genius and dynamite, he will unleash an act so 
terrible that no white man will ever mistreat a black person again. 
In Atlantic City, Father tells Mother he has been called back to New 
York City -- Coalhouse and his men have taken over the Morgan Library 
and threatened to blow up the building and its priceless contents unless 
his demands are met by that evening. The authorities believe Father, as 
someone who knows Coalhouse, can help them negotiate a peaceful 
settlement. Father promises Mother that when this crisis is over, their 
lives will be as they were before Mother found Coalhouse and Sarah's 
baby, that they will once again be happy. Mother tells him things will 
never be the same (Back To Before). 
In New York, a crowd of police, reporters and onlookers maintains a 
vigil outside of the library. Willie Conklin is restoring Coalhouse's 
car, but the authorities refuse to hand the fire chief over to the 
ragtime musician. They demand that Coalhouse come out of the library. 
Father arrives and tells them Coalhouse will listen to Booker T. 
Coalhouse sits inside the library surrounded by many priceless treasures 
and artworks. Bundles of dynamite are everywhere. Among his men is 
Younger Brother. Booker T. Washington enters. Coalhouse respectfully 
tells Washington he always tried to follow Washington's words of wisdom 
and action. Washington replies that Coalhouse's actions are the 
destruction of everything for which he has fought. Washington, reminding 
Coalhouse about the legacy he will leave his son, urges him to give up 
and leave the library, promising that he will intercede on Coalhouse's 
behalf during his trial. Despite angry protests from his men, Coalhouse 
agrees to surrender on the condition that his men can leave unharmed. 
Washington departs. 
A hostage arrives at the door. It is Father. Recognizing Younger 
Brother, Father demands an explanation. Younger Brother asks Father to 
tell Mother that he has always loved and admired her. Father tells 
Coalhouse that his restored car is ready. As he prepares to leave, 
Coalhouse urges his men to tell their story to ensure his struggle was 
not in vain (Make Them Hear You). 
Coalhouse's men leave the museum and drive off. Assured that his men are 
safe, Coalhouse thanks Father for his family's kindness and prepares to 
leave. Coalhouse asks Father whether he will be killed. Father replies, 
"No," that the authorities are decent men. Coalhouse walks out the door 
and is greeted by a barrage of gunfire. 
Following Coalhouse's death, Younger Brother joins the great peasant 
revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in Mexico. In Sarajevo in 1914, Archduke 
Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, triggering World War I. In the Atlantic 
in 1915, Father is among the 1,200 men, women and children who perish 
when the Lusitania is torpedoed by a U boat off the Southwest coast of 
Ireland. After mourning for a year, Mother accepts a marriage proposal 
from Tateh whom she adores. Together with the Little Boy, the Little 
Girl, and Coalhouse and Sarah's son, also named Coalhouse, they move to 
California to make a new home and start a new life (Ragtime / Wheels of 
a Dream (Reprise)). 
- Dennis Kucherawy


Back to Before
By: all4Mikey
Buffalo Nickel Photoplay Inc.
By: Bert Royal
Goodbye My Love
Make Them Hear You
By: all4Mikey
New Music
Our Children
By: all4Mikey
By: all4Mikey
Sara Brown Eyes
Till We Reach That Day
Wheels of a Dream
By: DMBaritone!
Your Daddy's Son
By: all4Mikey

Ragtime Links

Musicals. Net
Lots of info...
Ragtime: The Musical
Very nice site...
Livent's Ragtime Home Page
Great Site...
On Stage: Ragtime
Great info site...
***Volutanie's Musical Page...***
Come and visit my main home page and see other musical pages.

Search for the Album or Artist of Your Choice!
Album Title
Song Title

powered by lycos Search: Tripod The Web  
Software Search