Best Musical

Ragtime, The Jewish Community Center and Cuyahoga Community College

No director in the region can fill a proscenium arch quite like Fred Sternfeld, and his staging of the brawny musical Ragtime was a prime example of his talents. Painting a tapestry of lives and songs derived from the E.L. Doctorow novel, this production turned the enormous stage at the Tri-C Eastern Campus into early 1900s New York, where three families struggle to make sense of a changing city crowded with immigrants, bigots, and hucksters. Ably assisted by music director David Williams and choreographer Martin Céspedes, Sternfeld mastered the sweep of events while polishing every small moment until it gleamed. In a splendid cast, Kyle Primous simmered with dangerous sexuality as Coalhouse Walker Jr., and his rendition of "Wheels of a Dream" was dazzling. Marc Moritz, as Jewish arrival Tateh, was a fascinating mixture of self-deprecation and naked ambition. Backed by a strong orchestra, the heartfelt music explored this vast emotional landscape - especially a cross-cultural duet between Tateh and Maggie Stahl-Wirfel (playing Mother) as they shared feelings about "Our Children."