After acclaim last year at Manchester’s mighty Hope Mill Theatre, RAGS The Musical has transferred to the Park Theatre for a limited season. It’s a Broadway musical with a long, chequered history and is premiering here in a newly reworked version with a lot of input from Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz.
RAGS centres on a group of Jewish immigrants to New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Can single mother Rebecca Hershkovitz (Carolyn Maitland) use her seamstress skills to sew herself a new life in the new world?
For my post-show discussion at Park Theatre, I was joined by producer Katy Lipson, the multi-award-winning powerhouse behind Aria Entertainment Ltd, musical director Joe Bunker, leading lady Carolyn Maitland and fellow cast members Jeremy Rose, Debbie Chazen, Rachel Izen, Alex Gibson-Giorgio, Adam Crossley, Matthew Gent and Drew Dillon.
RAGS was written by renowned Broadway composer Charles Strouse, lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book writer Joseph Stein, who, 22 years earlier, also wrote the book for thematic ‘prequel’ Fiddler on the Roof. Despite this pedigree, it closed after only four performances when it had its Broadway premiere in 1986. (Though a reassembled cast recording with Judy Kuhn five years later created a bit of a cult following.)
In the decades since, it’s been reworked several times; most recently, after Strouse’s death in 2010, with a rewritten book by David Thompson. This new version had its UK premiere in 2019 at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre and now marks the venue’s fifth London transfer in just its first three years.
How much has the show changed since that first version in 1986? Would you believe 85%?!
The discussion starts with me asking Aria’s Katy Lipson, given the show’s potted history, how she first became familiar with RAGS? And why she wanted to produce it? Lots more flowed from there…. including some great gems about Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz, who has remained closely involved.
Event photography by Peter Jones.