Baron Ashkenazy

A Musical in Two Acts, 18 Scenes, a Prologue and Epilogue. Book by Terrence McNally. Based on the novel of the same name by E. L. Doctorow. Music by Stephen Flaherty. Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Orchestrations by William David Brohn. Dance music arranged by David Krane. Vocal arrangements by Stephen Flaherty.

Tateh has found success in the film industry, starting a motion picture company called Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc., and has reinvented himself as Baron Ashkenazy. The Spy review – Sacha Baron Cohen goes undercover in middling Mossad drama The star of Borat and Bruno goes straight as an Israeli spy in a plodding period espionage saga that mainly manages to. Baron Samedi is a lwa (Vodou spirit) and the warden of the cemetery. Fabiola sees Dray as an iteration of Baron Samedi. Fabiola Toussaint. Fabiola Toussaint. Download this Chart (PDF) “Would not have made it through AP Literature without the printable PDFs.

Opened 18 January 1998 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and closed 16 January 2000 after 861 performances.

Revival: Neil Simon Theatre, Broadway. 15 November, 2009. Closed 19th January, 2010 (65 perfs)

The Story


On a scrim, twin photographic images appear: turn of the century men and women, well-off, dignified, all in cream and white. A young boy, called simply The Little Boy, picks up a stereopticon, raises it before his eyes, and the two photo-graphic images merge and come to life.

We are on the front lawn of a home in New Rochelle, New York as The Little Boy, Mother, Father, Mother's Younger Brother, their family and neighbours sing of a new era. Soon their genteel life is interrupted by Negroes from Harlem, and then by immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe: three distinct cultures that now must live together.

On the dock in New York Harbour, Mother bids farewell to Father as he boards the S.S. Roosevelt bound for the North Pole with Admiral Peary. At sea, leaving the harbour, Father spots a 'rag' ship of immigrants heading to Ellis Island and wonders what these arriving passengers are in for. On the 'rag' ship, an immigrant named Tateh and his motherless Little Girl see a flare light up the sky and Father waving, and wonder why anyone would leave this America.

In a courtroom in Manhattan, Evelyn Nesbit testifies in the scandalous murder trial of her husband, Harry K. Thaw, accused of shooting her lover, the famous architect Stanford White.

Back in New Rochelle, Mother is planting in her garden when she discovers a newborn Negro boy buried in the earth. Clutching the child to her body she wonders 'what kind of woman' would do such a thing. She soon finds out - the police arrive with Sarah, mute, scared, desperate. The police intend to press charges of attempted murder, but Mother intercedes - she will take them both, Sarah and the child, into her home.

At the Tempo Club in Harlem, a crowd gathers to listen to the new piano playing style of one Coalhouse Walker Jr., a style called Ragtime. The Coalhouse they find is a man with a broken heart. Sarah, the woman he loves, has run out on him. But he's determined to change his ways and win her back. Once groomed and dressed up, Coalhouse needs only one more thing to lure Sarah. Suddenly, like an apparition, Henry Ford appears along with his assembly line. The auto magnate explains his theory of mass production to Coalhouse and the dapper musician drives off in his own Model T. But the joy of his new acquisition is soon dampened when, on his search for Sarah, Coalhouse stops for directions at the Emerald Isle Firehouse. There Chief Willie Conklin and his burly buddies hurl racist abuse at Coalhouse and envy his fancy car.

In the attic room in Mother's house, Sarah, clutching her child, tries to explain to the baby what inspired her act of desperation.

Coalhouse finally finds the house in New Rochelle. When Mother informs Sarah of his arrival, Sarah asks that he be sent away. Coalhouse leaves politely, pledging to return each Sunday. Mother is charmed by the musician's romantic longing. On one Sunday, she invites him in for tea, and to play on her old Aeolian piano. Amidst this, Father arrives home unannounced from the North Pole after a year away. He finds a wife who works, a son who seems all grown up, Sarah and the baby living in the attic, and Coalhouse at the piano. He wonders if he belongs here. Attracted by the gorgeous sounds of Coalhouse's music, Sarah finally comes down the stairs and falls into his waiting arms.

On a hill overlooking New Rochelle, Coalhouse polishes his Model T and tells Sarah of new hope he has acquired from the teachings of Booker T. Washington. Together Coalhouse and Sarah sing of the promise for freedom the car represents for their son.

Tateh has now relocated to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he works at a loom 64 hours per week for $6 pay. Emma Goldman witnesses the horrid working conditions in Lawrence, then describes them at a union rally in lower Manhattan. Younger Brother shows up at the union hall and finds himself inspired by the anarchist.

Back in Lawrence, the militia is called out to confront the strikers. The frightened workers send their children off to safe foster homes. As Tateh puts The Little Girl on the train, he is beaten to the ground. He realises sending his daughter away is a mistake. He takes off, running along the railroad track, towards safety. He takes a final plunge up onto the train into his shaken daughter's arms. Tateh calms her by giving her a flip book of silhouettes he has made, cut outs of The Little Girl ice skating. The train conductor notices Tateh demonstrating the flip book and buys it for his own daughter. Tateh realizes he may have designed a valuable product. His life is about to change,:

Driving home from their afternoon of leisure, Coalhouse and Sarah are stopped and threatened by the firehouse gang on Emerald Isle. Coalhouse sends Sarah off to safety and seeks a policeman to complain to. Upon returning to his car, Coalhouse finds it has been trashed by the firemen. A pile of human excrement has been deposited in the back seat. In a rage, Coalhouse vows that, until this wrong is righted, he cannot marry.

Sarah's heart is broken. She will resolve this for Coalhouse so they can carry out their plans. As it happens the Vice Presidential campaign train is making a whistle stop in town. Sarah attends the rally. She pushes her way through the crowd to try to get to the candidate, thinking he will answer her plea for help. But, with the recent assassination of President McKinley fresh on their minds, the guards fear any citizen and beat Sarah to the ground, and to death.

Baron ashkenazy

Mourning for the innocent victim begins in Harlem with a funeral procession, then spreads, via newspaper reports, all over the region.

To spend some time alone with his son, Father decides to take the Little Boy to a baseball game between the Giants and the Braves at the Polo Grounds. 'It's a civilized pastime,' Father assures his son. But the stands and the field are filled with rowdy immigrants and even Father can no longer ignore how his genteel society is vanishing.

At the Main Street Theatre in New Rochelle, the world famous illusionist Harry Houdini performs his act of great escape, climaxing with an explosion of smoke and fire. The Little Boy wakes up in bed. The Houdini show has been a dream. He yells for his mother. 'Something bad is going to happen,' he says. 'It's Coalhouse.'

From the darkness, a broken, ferocious Coalhouse Walker appears. He publicly states his demands: that his car be restored and that Willie Conklin be turned over to him to avenge his Sarah's death. Until the demands are met, he vows to kill firemen and destroy firehouses. A gang of devoted followers joins Coalhouse.

The tragedy reaches the home of Mother and Father. Father is highly critical of Coalhouse's violent tactics. But Younger Brother sympathises with the musician and despises Father's complacency. Younger Brother storms out of the house and heads for Harlem in search of Coalhouse. He is led to the revolutionary headquarters. Face-to-face with Coalhouse, he has so much to say but finds himself speechless. The young man is driven by the revolutionary spirit of Emma Goldman, who appears at his side.

Mother and Father's home is surrounded by a swarm of reporters. Father is fed up. He blames Mother for the disruption in their lives. Their conflict demands some change. Atlantic City seems to be the answer. There Mother will be safe with the baby, and it is close enough so that Father can visit on weekends.

Baron Ashkenazy 1906

On the beach outside the Breakers Hotel in Atlantic City, Father, Mother and the Little Boy see a moving picture play being filmed. The director spots the family, is attracted by Mother's beauty, and introduces himself as the Baron Ashkenazy.

The storm along the beach draws Mother and the Baron out looking for their children. As the storm fades, they converse and the Baron reveals he is no Baron at all. He is Tateh, a poor immigrant Jew who got lucky in America. Affected by the revelation, Mother changes the topic.

Evelyn Nesbit and Harry Houdini, both performing in a boardwalk side show, meet during an intermission. The scandal is long behind Evelyn now and she is having trouble attracting an audience. Houdini, on the other hand, cannot keep them away.

Father approaches Mother on the beach, dressed in his suit and top hat. He reports that Coalhouse and his men have taken over the Morgan Library in Manhattan and have threatened to blow it up. Father feels compelled to go there and volunteer to help negotiate. Once this is over, Father insists to Mother, they can go back to their own normal lives. But Mother disagrees.Outside the Morgan Library, Conklin, under the watchful eye of N.Y. District Attorney Charles S. Whitman, works on restoring Coalhouse's car. But that is not good enough. Coalhouse wants Conklin.

Booker T. Washington enters the library to negotiate. He advises Coalhouse that for the sake of his son, he must give himself up without causing further destruction. Coalhouse secures freedom for his gang and sends them off in the restored car. With his men safe Coalhouse walks out the library door and to his fate.


The Little Boy tells us that the era of Ragtime has run out like a tune on a player piano. As a montage of characters from the entire journey fills the stage, we hear once again the promise of hope for the future.

Original Cast

(in order of appearance):

  • The Little Boy: Alex Strange.
  • Father: MARK JACOBY.
  • Mother: MARIN MAllIE.
  • Mother's younger brother: STEVEN SUTCLIFFE.
  • Grandfather: Conrad McLaren.
  • Coalhouse Walker: BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL.
  • Booker T. Washington: Tommy Hollis.
  • The Little Girl: Lea Michele.
  • Harry Houdini: Jim Corti.
  • J. P. Morgan: Mike O'Carroll.
  • Henry Ford: Larry Daggett.
  • Emma Goldman: JUDY KAYE.
  • Evelyn Nesbit: LYNNETTE PERRY.
  • Stanford White: Kevin Bogue.
  • Harry K. Thaw: Colton Green.
  • Admiral Peary: Rod Campbell.
  • Matthew Henson: Duane Martin Foster.
  • Judge: Mike O'Carroll.
  • Foreman: Conrad McLaren.
  • Reporter: Jeffrey Kuhn.
  • Kathleen: Anne Kanengeiser.
  • Policeman: Larry Dagget.
  • Doctor: Bruce Winant.
  • Dirty Old Man: Bruce Winant.
  • Policeman: Colton Green.
  • Sarah's Friend: Vanessa Townsell-Crisp.
  • Trolley Conductor: Gordon Stanley.
  • Willie Conklin: David Mucci.
  • Fireman: Jeffrey Kuhn.
  • Brigit: Anne. L. Nathan.
  • Conductor: Joe Locarro.
  • Town Hall Bureaucrat: Larry Dagget.
  • Second Bureaucrat: Anne Kanengeiser.
  • Clerk: Jeffrey Kuhn.
  • White Lawyer: Brce Winant.
  • Black Lawyer: Duane Martin Foster.
  • Reporters: Rod Campbell, Godon Stanley.
  • Welfare Official: Anne Kanengeiser.
  • Baron's Assistant: Anne L. Nathan.
  • Gang Member: Duane Martin Foster.
  • Pas de Deux: Monica L. Richards, Keith LaMelle Thomas. Charles S. Whitman: Gordon Stanley. Little Coalhouse:

The Ensemble:

Shaun Amyot, Darlene Bel Grayson, Kevin Bogue, Sondra M. Bonitto, Jamie Chandler-Torns, Ralph Deaton, Rodrick Dixon, Bernard Dotson, Donna Dunmire, Adam Dyer, Duane Martin Foster, Patty Goble, Colton Green, Elisa Heinshohn, Anne Kanengeiser, Jeffrey Kuhn, Joe Langworth, Joe Locarro, Anne L. Nathan, Pachali Null, Mimi Quillen, Monica L. Richards, Orgena Rose, Gordon Stanley, Angela Teek, Keith LaMelle Thomas, Allyson Tucker, Leon Williams, Bruce Winant. Swings: Karen Andrew, John D. Baker, Mark Cassius, Dioni Michelle Collins, Mary Sharon Dziedzic, Valerie Hawkins, Kennl Hobson, Todd Thurston.

Scenes and Settings

Act 1

Scene 1: Dock in the New York Harbour/At sea.
Scene 2: A vaudeville theatre, New York City.
Scene 3: Mother's garden, New Rochelle.
Scene 4: Ellis Island/Lower East Side.
Scene 5: The Tempo Club/Harlem/Ford's assembly line.
Scene 6: Railroad station, New Rochelle.
Scene 7: Emerald Isle Firehouse.
Scene 8: Mother's house, New Rochelle.
Best mixologist. Scene 9: A hillside above New Rochelle.
Scene 10: A union hall in New York City/Lawrence, Massachusetts/A train.
Scene 11: New Rochelle and New York City.

Act 2

Scene 1: The streets of New Rochelle/Mother's house.
Scene 2: The Polo Grounds.
Scene 3: Mother's house.
Scene 4: Atlantic City/Million Dollar Pier/ Boardwalk.
Scene 5: Harlem/Coalhouse's hideout.
Scene 6: The beach, Atlantic City.
Scene 7: The Morgan Library, New York City.

Musical Numbers


  1. Prologue
  2. Ragtime - Company
  3. Goodbye, My Love - Mother
  4. Journey On - Father, Tateh, Mother
  5. The Crime of the Century - Evelyn Nesbit, Mother's Younger Brother, Ensemble
  6. What Kind of Woman - Mother
  7. A Shtetl Iz Amereke - Tateh, The Little Girl, Immigrants
  8. Success - Tateh, J.P. Morgan, Harry Houdini, Ensemble
  9. Gettin' Ready Rag - Coalhouse Walker, Ensemble
  10. Henry Ford - Henry Ford, Coalhouse Walker, Ensemble
  11. Nothing Like the City - Tateh, Mother, The Little Boy, The Little Girl
  12. Your Daddy's Son - Sarah
  13. New Music - Father, Mother, Mother's Youngest Brother, Coalhouse Walker, Sarah, Ensemble
  14. Wheels of a Dream - Coalhouse Walker, Sarah
  15. The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square - Mother's Youngest Brother, Emma Goldman, Ensemble
  16. Lawrence, Massachusetts - Ensemble
  17. Gliding - Tateh
  18. Justice - Coalhouse Walker, Ensemble
  19. President - Sarah
  20. Till We Reach That Day - Trolley Conductor, Coalhouse Walker, Emma Goldman, Mother's Youngest Brother, Mother, Tateh, Ensemble



  1. Harry Houdini, Master Escapist - The Little Boy, Harry Houdini
  2. Coalhouse's Soliloquy -Coalhouse Walker
  3. Coalhouse Demands - Company
  4. What a Game - Father, The Little Boy, Ensemble
  5. Atlantic City - Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini
  6. New Music (reprise) - Father
  7. Atlantic City (Part 2) - Ensemble
  8. The Crime of the Century / Harry Houdini, Master Escapist (reprise) - Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini
  9. Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc. - Baron Ashkenazy
  10. Our Children - Mother, Baron Ashkenazy
  11. Sarah Brown Eyes - Coalhouse Walker, Sarah
  12. He Wanted to Say - Emma Goldman, Mother's Youngest Brother, Coalhouse Walker, Coalhouse's Men
  13. Back to Before - Mother
  14. Look What You've Done - Booker T. Washington , Coalhouse Walker, Coalhouse's Men
  15. Make Them Hear You - Coalhouse Walker
  16. Epilogue - Ragtime / Wheels of a Dream (reprise) - Company
Recently in class, Mr. Mitchell gave us a prompt revolving around Papa LaBas and Earline's conversation at the very end of Mumbo Jumbo.

Baron Ashkenazy

Recap of conversation (Reed 204):
Earline: Is this the end of Jes Grew?

Papa LaBas: Jes Grew has no end and no beginning..We will miss it for a while but it will come back, and when it returns we will see that it never left..We will make our own future Text. A future generation of young artists will accomplish this.
(These are selective points I highlighted from LaBas's paragraph answer.)
LaBas' answer induces the question of how Jes Grew has continued and manifested in the current day. Reed presents a detailed account of Jes Grew, beginning in Osiris' ancient Egyptian dominion. He then takes the story to Europe and connects it to the main Jazz-age context in Mumbo Jumbo. Although there is no real-life correspondence to Mumbo Jumbo's 1920's Jes Grew event, documented dancing pandemics are a real thing in history. (Caroline wrote a post about these occurrences in Europe.) But records of these dancing plagues has stopped since the seventeenth century, and indeed we don't have these dancing pandemics today.
However, just by Reed's introduction of Jes Grew in the first few pages of Mumbo Jumbo, of people doing ' 'stupid sensual things,' in a state of 'uncontrollable frenzy,' wriggling like fish, doing something called the 'Eagle Rock' and the 'Sassy Bump',' I had immediately formed a connection between the Jes Grew in the novel and a real-life, modern day counterpart (4-5).
In the form of a one-time, pop-music hit song that took America by storm in 2011: LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem ft. Lauren Bennett, GoonRock
'Party Rock Anthem' is a straightforward, blatant, and non-convoluted song promoting things related to partying, dancing, and having fun. But in the context of Mumbo Jumbo's1906 Jes Grew, the song and music video become newly interesting.
At the opening of the music video, a black screen shows with the words 'On March 1, LMFAO's Redfoo and Sky Blu slipped into comas after excessive party rocking,' introducing the apocalyptic setting of the music video. We see Redfoo and Sky Blu wake up from their comas to a deserted hospital; going outside, the streets and cars are in disarray and also deserted.
The apocalyptic presentation of the world and the infectious nature of party rocking is the premise of the music video. We see one man at 2:06 get surrounded by party-rockers while trying to escape the dancing mania and subsequently become infected with it. The portrayal of party rocking as a 'physic plague' and 'spreading infection' is exactly how Jes Grew is also introduced (17).
However, in Mumbo Jumbo we quickly start to distinguish between the two views of Jes Grew. Seeing Jes Grew as a spreading disease, a pandemic that needs to be contained, is the Atonist viewpoint; LaBas, Black Herman, Harlem, and the promoters of Jes Grew see it as an 'anti-plague,' something that 'enlivens the host' and is the 'delight of the gods' (6).
In the music video, we also begin to see a distinction between attitudes toward party rocking. The individuals who are scared of party rocking are presented as typical adherents to respectable, stiff, rule-following society. Notice that the man at 2:06 who gets surrounded and infected makes the sign of the cross and prays before dashing into the open. The main anti-party-rocking character is the man at 1:07 who tries to keep the dancing mania away from Redfoo and Sky Blu by giving them earplugs. His appearance, in contrast to everyone else's brightly colored, fantastically printed clothing, is that of a typical, respectable office worker in a collared white dress shirt, pants, and tie. His fearful description of party rocking, saying that 'It'll get into your bones' and 'They've been Shufflin' ,' is reminiscent of the Atonist way of describing Jes Grew as an 'uncontrollable frenzy' and calling out dance moves such as the 'Eagle Rock' and 'Sassy Bump' in a comically serious and frightened manner.

Baron Ashkenazy

In contrast, everyone in the music video who is actually party rocking is having a good time, enlivened and dancing with smiles on their faces. The point of this, being the same point of Jes Grew, is to promote letting go and allowing natural expression. Jes Grew at the core is not rooted to Harlem or a single culture; it spreads anywhere--Egypt, Europe, America--with the purpose of shedding oppressive society and allowing people to follow their desires and natural inclinations.
Jes Grew in Mumbo Jumbo's Jazz age promoted black expression in America. Jes Grew in the current day as presented by 'Party Rock Anthem' and similar media would perhaps be promoting something such as freedom against rule-stricken, pressurized, American worker society. Partying, flaunty clothing, the party-rock infected nurse dancer included in the music video I think are all bits and pieces pointing toward this idea. As LaBas said, 'We will make our own future Text. A future generation of young artists will accomplish this.' Aside from the power of the internet and catchy nature of the song, it's interesting how a release such as 'Party Rock Anthem,' quite shallow on the surface, was able to hit and spread virally all across the nation.