Writers: Terrence McNally Lynn Ahrens Stephen Flaherty


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Drama, Historical/Biographical
Multiple Settings
Time & Place
new york city and environs (especially new rochelle), 1902 - 1906
Cast Size
Musical Staging
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, mature adult, young adult, child, late teen characters


Based on the novel of the same name by E.L. Doctrow, Ahren’s and Flaherty’s Ragtime is a compelling epic capturing the American experience at the turn of the 20th century. Tracking three diverse families in pursuit of the American dream in the volatile “melting pot” of turn-of-the-century New York, Ragtime confronts the dialectic contradictions inherent in American reality: experiences of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair. Over the course of the show, the worlds of a wealthy white couple, a Jewish immigrant father and his motherless daughter, and an African American ragtime musician intertwine. Together, they discover the surprising interconnections of the human heart, the limitations of justice and the unsettling consequences when dreams are permanently deferred. Featuring many of the historical figures that built and shaped turn-of-the-century America, including J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit and Henry Ford, this musical sweeps across the diversity of the American experience to create a stirring epic that captures the beats of the American experience: the marches, the cakewalks and - of course, the ragtime.

Note: this study guide is based on Ragtime (Version 2) which has been produced on the West End, the Touring Broadway production, and in regional theatres around the world. It features a somewhat smaller cast and orchestra and less elaborate scenery that the Broadway production (called “Version 1” on the Music Theater International website.) It is still grand and epic in scale, with a cast of 19+. One of the most significant differences between the two versions is in the vocal ranges of the characters, which change pretty substantially to accommodate the difference in orchestration.

Lead Characters

Ragtime guide sections