‘Ragtime’ in Thousand Oaks

Ed Krieger Front, from left: Bets Malone and Will Krieger. Back, from left: Matthew Rocheleau, Steven Perren and John Gaston.

Music sung with soul is now at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in the form of “Ragtime,” produced by Cabrillo Music Theatre, the nonprofit resident theatre of the Plaza.

The Tony-Award winning musical is the story of three families-one white, which Cabrillo’s press release describes as “upper middle class,” one “socialist immigrant” and one “Harlem black.” The three families’ lives become intertwined through social and personal dreams, hopes and tragedies during the early 1900s in New York.

Maceo Oliver, who has a rich singing voice, plays the role of Coalhouse Walker Jr., a musician who decides to find his sweetheart (Nicole Pryor) who left him and, unbeknownst to him, bore his child. In his search he meets the upper middle class family, of which the mother (Bets Malone) has taken in Coalhouse’s sweetheart and child, the latter whom she found abandoned in the garden.

There are several moments of sweetness and heartbreak in Coalhouse’s attempt at wooing back the mother of his child, and in the end he succeeds but tragedy later follows. The son of the white mother (Will Krieger) is refreshingly sweet and comical as he, as most children would do, tells the facts and truth straight out about who is who and what’s going on.

The white family also meets through happenstance Jewish immigrant father Tateh (Eric Anderson) and his daughter (Teza Belmond). The white mother teaches tolerance to her son, who stares at the immigrant family, letting him know that they are a parent and child, just like them, but with different customs. In an amusing, rapid exchange, the son introduces himself to the little girl, then asks her where her mother is. “Dead,” sings Belmond, just as directly as he asks. Both child actors, Belmond and Kreiger, steal many scenes, especially when they are with each other. Belmond does not have much dialogue, but she is constantly “present” in all scenes, conveying her shyness, fear, love of her father and also unabashed directness at times.

The musical is directed and choreographed by Paul David Bryant, and the music director and conductor is Ilana Eden. All the actors, including Jimmer Bolden, John Gaston, Steven Perren, Matthew Rochleau, Will Shoupe and the ensemble cast, have fine voices and solid acting skills. However, their talent was marred by problems with the sound tech-miscues for the actors’ microphones were frequent for much of the first half of the show. However, many of the actors had strong enough voices to overcome the technical problems.

“Ragtime” performs Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 4. More information can be obtained by calling 805.449.2787. Tickets can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 805. 583.8700 or 213.480.323.