'Rags' Tells Jewish Immigrant Mother's Story

By Michael Brennan, Special to SNH

“Rags” features one of the most prestigious collaborations in the history of Broadway featuring a book by the writer of “Fiddler on the Roof,” music by the composer of “Annie” and lyrics by the lyricist of ”Wicked.”

After an all-too-brief Broadway run in the mid ‘80s, Goodspeed Musicals decided to try their hand at re-working the show. When they asked David Thompson to reimagine the late Joseph Stein’s script, he embraced the opportunity.

“I thought of it in an odd way, as a chance to finally collaborate with Joe. By spending time with the countless drafts and the characters he had created, I could better understand how he approached his craft,” said Thompson. With the help of original composer Charles Strouse and original lyricist Stephen Schwartz, Thompson and director Rob Ruggiero were set to create a new story that remains relevant to today’s audiences.

“Rags” is about a Jewish immigrant mother, Rebecca, and her child, David, trying to start a new life in early 20th century America. Unlike the original version’s many interconnected plots, Ruggiero wanted the story to be more grounded - to make the mother’s journey the main focus of the story. “Goodspeed audiences will experience this new version of ‘Rags’ through a more intimate and personal lens, exposing a powerful story of the American immigrant experience,” said Ruggiero. Notably, this production of “Rags” allowed Strouse and Schwartz to perfect their vision for the music; they use much of the original score but were able to repurpose some of the material and even write a few new songs. Thompson believes this musical truly celebrates the contributions of our generation and those before us - the melting pot of different people who helped build up this country. “[In] the years since Joe wrote his initial treatment, the story has become even more relevant, more important and, in many ways, more needed. There isn’t a day that passes we don’t read another headline about an immigrant family coming to America, hoping to find a better life,” said Thompson.

“Rags” is currently running through Dec. 10 at The Goodspeed in East Haddam. For tickets, call (860) 873-8668 or go online at www.goodspeed.org.


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