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    LGBTQ Broadway Actor Honors His Jewish and Immigrant Heritage in Timely Ragtime

    The story told in the Tony Award-winning musical classic Ragtime is a remarkable reflection of today’s world, despite being set 120 years in the past. Tracing the intersecting lives of an inventive Jewish immigrant, a courageous Black pianist, and a conflicted white mother at the dawn of the 20th century, this poignant and powerful show spotlights themes of racism, immigration, classism, injustice, and the eternal hope of the American Dream, all through a lush and beautiful score of soaring ballads and lively ragtime tunes.

    Director Robert Kelley’s new production at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley focuses on the vital messages at the heart of the story, with a core of 15 talented performers personifying dozens of characters, including historical figures like Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Emma Goldman, Booker T. Washington, and more. Act I alone features more than 90 costume changes and 30 scene shifts, bringing this whirlwind era to thrilling life on stage.

    Among this fearless cast is Leo Ash Evens, a proud member of the LGBTQ community who has been seen on Broadway in Shuffle Along, School of Rock, and Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as West Side Story in London’s West End and in the musical’s 50th anniversary tour. Evens is also Jewish, and his ancestors include immigrants from Russia, Austria, and Romania; his grandfather even came to America through Ellis Island itself. When Evens steps onstage at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts as Tateh, a Jewish immigrant who leaves Latvia to make a new life for himself and his daughter, he’s not just playing a role; he’s honoring his heritage and paying homage to his family tree.

    Evens says he has wanted to play Tateh ever since witnessing Ragtime’s 1996 pre-Broadway tryout at the age of 13. He was struck by Tateh’s heart, determination, and integrity—qualities that he aims to bring to his performance at TheatreWorks. During his BFA training at Carnegie Mellon, Evens even put Tateh’s difficult patter song “Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.” into his audition repertoire, which came in handy when auditioning at TheatreWorks for the show almost twenty years later. Originally cast for TheatreWorks’ planned 2020 production—which was selected to honor the Tony-recipient company’s 50th anniversary and was canceled during its first week of rehearsals due to the pandemic—Evens is thrilled to finally be performing in this stirring and sweeping musical epic more than two years later.

    Evens is joined by a host of talented performers from all over the country. Christine Dwyer, who plays Mother, has starred on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked and performed leading roles in the national tours of Waitress, Finding Neverland, and Rent. Seen on Broadway in Hair and Miss Saigon, Nkrumah Gatling appears as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. Iris Beaumier just finished a run in Broadway’s The Little Prince before joining the Ragtime company as Sarah; and Suzanne Grodner, who plays anarchist Emma Goldman, was seen on Broadway in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Rose Tattoo, and Bye Bye Birdie. Rounding out the cast are Sean Okuniewicz, Colin Thomson, Michael Gene Sullivan, Melissa WolfKlain, Keith Pinto, Leslie Ivy, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., Jackson Janssen, Joshua Parecki, Ruth Keith, and Sydney Walker Freeman.

    Ragtime performs now through June 26 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street. For tickets (starting at $40) and information, please visit

    Published on June 9, 2022