Artisté Florenza and I saw the Roundabout Theater Company’s production of The Tin Pan Alley Rag at the Larua Pels. It’s a fantastic premise and an elaborate production for such a small space that delivers the goods in uneven servings.
The play imagines a meeting between Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin in Berlin’s music publishing office on 28th Street—the Tin Pan Alley of the title. The meeting is fictitious but the idea is ripe with possibilities. Though not a big Berlin fan, I’ve always admired Joplin’s music and was predisposed to like the show before it began, but it could use a sharp knife to trim some fat off the meat.
Scott Joplin wrote an opera that’s a hybrid of ragtime and traditional European opera. Treemonisha was finally produced in 1976 and won the Pulitzer but, honestly, I didn’t think it was all that. So one of the main plot devices and some of the music is sourced from something that I couldn’t get interested in. But I do like The Maple Leaf Rag.
Sad coincidence: Both Berlin and Joplin lost their wives to illness just months after their wedding.
This YouTube vid isn’t much to look at, but it’s Scott Joplin playing and of the several versions I previewed, this is by far the best. I’ve always heard that ragtime is very difficult to play. Can anyone confirm that?