Kenney Workman fell in the love with the music from “Ragtime,” before he saw the show. When he did finally see it, he knew he had to direct it. He’ll get his chance starting Friday, Sept. 23, when it opens at Possum Point Players. We chatted with him the week before the show opened for insight into the production and time in community theater.
Kenney Workman fell in the love with the music from “Ragtime,” before he saw the show. When he did finally see it, he knew he had to direct it. He’ll get his chance starting this Friday, Sept. 23, when it opens at Possum Point Players.
The hit Broadway musical intertwines the stories of three families in turn-of-the-century America. Workman is trying to bring those stories to the stage with a huge cast of talented vocalists.
Surprising hobby for a financial analyst.
“I’ve always joked that I use one side of my brain during the day and another side at night,” he said.
Here’s what else he said during a break from the stage.
Q What appeals to you about “Ragtime”?
A The music, in my opinion, is the best Broadway music ever written. I also read the book, and the themes of the show, the social issues that were struggling with at that time — racism, women’s rights, political activism — are things that we’re still struggling with today.
Q This is a sing-through musical, one that has hardly any spoken words. How did this affect the casting process?
A It verges on being opera in that there is so little dialog in it. It’s a singers’ show, so it attracted a lot of people who really love to sing and know how to sing.
Having worked in community theater for all these years, you sort of know the people who are out there. So when I’m casting I always think, “Who do I know would be good in this,” or “If nobody showed up to auditions could I cast the show with people I know?”
I do push people I know are going to be really good to audition for me, but we do have open auditions and you never know who’s going to walk in the door. There are people who walked in the door for this show who got pretty major roles.
Q What’s the experience of working with a cast this large?
A It’s between 45 and 60 people, I’ve lost track. It’s pretty ambitious, but we just decided what the heck, let’s give it go.
The musical director Melanie Bradley and I have worked together many times before, and I always work with the same choreographer Aimee String. They’re really good, it makes my job easier. I don’t have to think about the music part of it, and I don’t have to think about the dance part of it, I just have to worry about what’s on the stage.
What Melanie and I are really interested in doing is that when people all sing at one time, it will just lift the roof off the place. This cast does it. It’s just a wonderful group that we’ve got, so we’re really lucky there.
Q What are some of the challenges of the show, besides the size?
A One challenge that we faced is that there are three distinct groups in the show: The New Rochelle people, the immigrant people and the African American people. We’ve struggled over the years to involve as many African American people as we’d like. So that was a challenge, too, to really work hard to get the African American community to come, but I think we’ve got it.
I have people as far north as Dover, west to Easton, east to the coast, and south to Berlin.
Q You’ve been involved in community theater for more than 30 yeas. What keeps you active in it?
A You get to work around a great group of people who all have daytime jobs, and over the years it gets to be a family.
There’s the whole Mickey Rooney, “let’s put on a show” kind of thing, but on the other side you get to work with really talented people that you wouldn’t even know if you weren’t part of community theater. And I like the creative outlet, I like sort of having a vision and having it come to life.
For me, the directing side of it, you sort of have total control. You only have so much control over an actor, but you can pull the strings.
Q What show(s) would you like to direct in the future?
A There are a lot of musicals that appeal to me that might be impossible for a community theater to tackle, like “Les Misérables,” but I’m doing “Ragtime” so I can’t really say that.