Wednesday, January 13, 2010


On September 15th, I purchased tickets for my wife and me to go see the new Broadway production of Ragtime.  I had seen and very much liked the previous Broadway production and also a Hofstra production.  I think Ragtime’s music is excellent and the story very powerful.  In addition, the show serves as a helpful educational and historical vehicle.  The show opened in the middle of November and my tickets were for Saturday night, January 9th.  Just after New Year, I received an email that the last performance for the current production would be the 5th.  A day later, I received a follow-up email that the last performance had been extended to the 10th.  My timing turned out well and on the 9th we went into the city for dinner and the show.

Now what had happened?  Why was a show with a good run on Broadway a number of years ago and a production that was well received at the Kennedy Center closing so quickly?  The obvious answer is that the demand wasn’t there and the tickets didn’t sell. What was the cause?  As described by Ben Brantley, the New York Times critic, “Ragtime has lost weight since it was last on Broadway.”  This is viewed as a positive by Ben Brantley and he comments that this version of the show had “an unaffecting, uneasy human soul largely missing in the 1998 version,” while the previous version which “featured planes, trains, a full-size Model T and fireworks...was infatuated with its own technology.”  All true, but having paid full price for the tickets, I felt that this version, though still enjoyable, was too sparse for me.  This was especially true when Coalhouse Walker Jr.’s Model T was attacked.  A bare-bones skeletal outline of a car just doesn’t lend itself to the desired impact.

I am a major fan of Broadway musicals and have seen virtually every Broadway musical for many years.  I am not a critic or a Broadway producer, rather just an economist and a provost. I liked this production:  the cast was talented, the music powerful and the story compelling.  But if I pay $250 for two tickets—especially in a constrained economic environment – I want both soul and lavish sets.  In a difficult economic time, consumers of Broadway shows or higher education place a premium on value and getting the most for their money.  In that context, Ragtime asked too much for too little.


  1. I agree: we want value (and perhaps even "value added") for our hard-earned dollars, whether we're enjoying a Broadway show or getting an education. Hofstra unquestionably gave me value-and value added- and my BA and MA have served me well.
    Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D. ('73, '75)

  2. I had been lucky enough to see Ragtime for its premiere run in Toronto while on a business trip. I liked it so much, I insisted that my husband accompany me when it ran on Broadway for the first time. Again, it was delightful. However, I always find it much more convenient - and just as enjoyable - catching one of Hofstra's wonderful productions. Not only do you save yourself the expensive schlep into the city, but you also get a very comfortable seat, along with a warm feeling of helping students and local performers make their mark in the performance world. I hope many will join me at Hofstra for "Night of Broadway Stars" on February 6th. It's an important fundraiser for scholarships and also promises to be a wonderful evening of entertainment.