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Roundabout’s The Tin Pan Alley Rag in Wall St. Journal

Roundabout Theatre Company’s THE TIN PAN ALLEY RAG is playing at the Laura Pels Theatre through September 6, 2009.


July 15, 2009

Life & Style


By Gwen Orel

The new musical “Tin Pan Alley Rag,” imagines a meeting in 1915 that could have taken place between African-American composer Scott Joplin and Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin. The show, written by Mark Saltzman, opened at the Laura Pels Theater at the Roundabout in New York City this week.

Irving Berlin, born Israel Baline, could not read music. Scott Joplin, son of a slave, had a college education. They shared respect, as well as sorrow–both men had lost their wives. But where Berlin was a genius of music and of marketing, Joplin was only one of music, says Mr. Saltzman, whose first professional job on Broadway was as an audition pianist.

The show, which has had previous regional productions, has been reworked for New York as “a naturalistic musical,” says director Stafford Arima. Every song comes from a “real” situation: a “plugger” (a songwriter pitching a song), Berlin playing, Joplin describing his opera. “Tin Pan Alley Rag” includes Berlin hits like “I Love a Piano” and Joplin standards including “The Entertainer.”

It also contains music from “Treemonisha,” Joplin’s ragtime opera. The opera’s story features the title character, a determined young woman, standing up to forces who keep former slaves in ignorance.

To read the entire article, click here.


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