From these ‘Rags,’ riches at George Mason University
November 4, 2019
Congratulations DC-area theatergoers! A new version of a major musical is being performed at George Mason University this weekend. It has legs and there are still tickets available. Rags is the DC-area premiere of the newly adapted version of the 1986 Tony-nominated musical. The audience loved the opening night, as so many aspects of this sweeping story worked beautifully.
Director Rick Davis (Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts) brings the combined strengths of the School of Theatre and School of Music to this story of Jewish immigrants newly arrived in America in the early 1900s. The story centers on Rebecca (a beautifully-voiced Jessica Barraclough), a young mother and widow, who hopes her sewing talents may provide a job in America. Her ocean-crossing friendship with Bella (Lauren Fraites) eases her way in a new world where she knows no one, has nothing but her drive, and does not read the language. Her struggles are those of many immigrants, from her day to the present, including cultural and language barriers, broken families, and sexism, as well as poverty and racism.
Romantic interests for Rebecca and Bella appear in the forms of the neighbor and union-leader Sal (the charismatic Tony Lemus) and co-worker Ben (a superb Claudio Manno). Sal is Italian Catholic, providing insights into cultural and religious differences, and he sings “Meet an Italian” with an operatic swagger that adds joyously to his love for baseball. Ben works in the sweatshops run by Bella’s uncle, but aspires to be a songwriter, à la Irving Berlin, writing and then singing “Bella’s Song.” All four of these actors have gorgeous voices and build intriguing characters.