Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Marin Mazzie are in amazing voice, but the rest of the cast is great too. The original production on Broadway was a high. Directed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, Ragtime closed on January 16, 2000 after 834 performances and 27 previews. The original cast included Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Peter Friedman and Audra McDonald, who were all nominated for Tony Awards, and also included Judy Kaye, Mark Jacoby and Lea Michele.
Product description. The epic sweep of Ragtime is captured in its opening prologue, a nine-minute kaleidoscope of fictional characters mingling with historical figures from the early 20th century as originally captured in E.L. Doctorow's sprawling novel.As the story continues, we meet pianist Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Brian Stokes Mitchell) and his child's mother, Sarah (Audra. Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell's brings fresh new life into Broadway classics. Featuring a wide variety of show tunes ranging from Irving Berlin to an unrecorded Stephen Sondheim song, Stokes approaches each song as its own mini-play, leaving his indelible mark on such classics as: There's No Business like Show Business. Brian Stokes Mitchell was born on October 31, 1957 in Seattle, Washington, USA. He is an actor, known for The Prince of Egypt (1998), Ghost Dad (1990) and Trapper John, M.D. He has been married to Allyson Tucker since September 3, 1994. They have one child.
Brian Stokes Mitchell is known as 'the last leading man' because of his significant Broadway roles, including 'Ragtime,' 'Kiss Me Kate,' and his current part in 'Shuffle Along.' But how he's helped and inspired his fellow actors and actresses has created perhaps an even greater legacy.
With his voice and stage presence, it's hard to imagine Brian Stokes Mitchell doing anything else. The truth isthere never really was a Plan B. 'I've always been attracted to things like theoretical physics and things like that,' the actor said. 'But that's a crappy Plan B, too. I mean, how many theoretical physicists are there in the world that make great livings?'
Science's loss has been the theater's gain. He is known to everyone on Broadway as 'Stokes.'
In 2002, The New York Times called him 'the last leading man,' thanks to roles in shows like 'Man of La Mancha,' 'Ragtime,' and 'Kiss Me Kate,' for which he won a Tony. 'You can relax a little bit because you think, 'What are the chances of getting nominated!' Mitchell said. 'You have to be in a great role, in a great show.' The vast amount of respect for Mitchell on Broadway stems only in part from what happens on stage.
Since 2004, he's served as president and then board chairman of the Actors Fund. The Fund operates the Actors Home in New Jersey, and assists people in the entertainment industry dealing with personal and family crises. 'They will proceed to tell me some story about how the actors fund helped them with insurance, or health care, or addiction, or they need a new hip, or something happened during Hurricane Sandy andthey got a new instrument,' Mitchell said. For this work, Mitchell won this year's Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for significant contributions to charitable and humanitarian causes.
Mitchell's most poignant reflection on the Tony's involves a year when he didn't win. In 1998, he was nominated for his performance in 'Ragtime,' the powerful story of ethnic and racial relations in America at the beginning of the 20th Century. The show won fewer awards than anticipated. There was disappointment. But then Mitchell read a news story about three men in Texas who were charged with and eventually convicted of chaining a black man to a truck and dragging him to his death. 'I was so ashamed that, it was like, 'Oh my God, about any of the Tony awards stuff became very unimportant,' Mitchell said. 'And at that moment I went, 'Oh, this is why we are here. This is why. This is much more important than a Tony award or any of that kind of stuff. This is the reason we are here. That's what the show was about.'
'Ragtime' ran for two years. But the lessons learned during the run seem to hold a special place for Mitchell, including a letter from a fan. 'Last week I came to see your show 'Ragtime' and I realized when I left the theater that I had been a racist all my life and didn't even know it,' Mitchell said, recalling the letter. 'And it's like, oh my God.
That's why. That's the real reason — to get to do that kind of stuff. You know? To get to do a show like that, a role like that. And that's what 'Shuffle Along' is too.'
'Shuffle Along' is about the making of a 1921 show of the same name. It was a rarity for its time, a successful Broadway musical written, produced, and acted entirely by African-Americans. It paved the way for other black musicals, but has been largely lost to history. 'It's a privilege to be able to bring these people to the fore and to let an audience discover them every single night,' Mitchell said. 'It's an honor. These are the people whose shoulders that we stand on.'
There is another inspiring role model in Brian Stokes Mitchell's life. 'My father was a Tuskegee airman,' said Mitchell. The Tuskegee Airmen were the celebrated squadron of black military pilots who fought in World War II and trained in Alabama. 'He taught radio code there in 1940 when they started,' Mitchell recalled. 'And he always used to tell stories of being in the army.' Because his father had a civilian engineering job in the navy, Mitchell spent much of his childhood in Guam and the Philippines. 'It also prepared me for a life in the theater, because living on a Navy base particularly I would make friends with people. You would have this great friendship, and then they would be gone the next year,' Mitchell explained. 'So you get very close to people and then somebody new comes in and so you make new friends. And that's very much what it's like doing a show.'
Mitchell went to high school in San Diego and quickly caught the acting bug. 'I played Conrad Birdie in 'Bye Bye Birdie,' Mitchell reminisced. 'And I remember hearing everybody screaming, all these girls in the audience.' 'I left home at 17 and immediately was working as an actor. I never waited tables. I only made my living as an actor. And I never even had to borrow money from my parents,' said the San Diego-native. 'Who gets to say that in the world as an actor? And I'm not bragging about that; I'm saying thank you.'
When his son was born in 2004, Mitchell wanted to pull back from the eight shows a week Broadway life for a bit. So, he began performing in concert. 'The schedule is much easier. I can make same money I make on Broadway doing 20, 30 shows a year,' he said. 'And I can sing what I want, I can say what I want, I can do what I want.'
The moments remembered not only happen on stage, but occasionally backstage. For example, after a performance of 'Ragtime,' Mitchell met the actor who paved the way for so many other African-Americans on stage and screen: Sidney Poitier. 'You're on that stage with me every night and you have been such an inspiration to me. You know, I just think of you, and all of the films that you've done, and what you've been through and everything, and I just want to say thank you for the inspiration that you've given me,' said Mitchell, recalling what Poitier said to him. Poitier then hugged him. 'Oh my God, it was this kind of sob that came out of him, and I'll never forget that moment,' Mitchell said.
Now 58, Brian Stokes Mitchell — yes, Stokes — is himself an inspiration to a younger generation of performers. Part of his message? Awards are nice, but the joy is in the work. 'Once you get a Tony award, now what? OK, I got my Tony award, but now what? You know, I still gotta pay my rent, still gotta clean my toilet, I still gotta go to the grocery store. I still have to change my kid's diaper,' said Mitchell. 'Life goes on, and I still have to get work.'
Before he got to Broadway, Mitchell already was a TV success, including seven ye
ars playing Justin 'Jackpot' Johnson on 'Trapper John, M.D.' For a time he was known as Brian Mitchell, but there was another performer and a football player named Brian Mitchell. So, in the late 1990s, while performing 'Ragtime,' he became Brian Stokes Mitchell, a name now recognizable to theater and music lovers everywhere.
When I set out to write my book,A Wonderful Guy: Conversations With the Great Men of Musical Theater, I knew I’d be fortunate enough to hear little-known backstage stories, some playful anecdotes of hard knocks and lucky breaks, and even a bit of dish.
But what consistently caught me off guard were the stories of inspiration. Almost every one of the leading men I spoke with left me with some indelible life lessons that moved me deeply, much as their work onstage has done. One of those stories is excerpted below, from my marathon conversation with Brian Stokes Mitchell on a blustery February day in 2018. I asked him if he knew, as he started working on Ragtime, just how impactful the work was going to be. This is what he said.
Brian Mitchell Actor
BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL: Magical things kept happening during rehearsals. It was this incredibly creative, positive, wonderful thing. And warm because of director Frank Galati, and choreographer Graciela Daniele, and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally. They were all coming from the same place, and the whole cast became part of the conversation. It morphed into something even greater. I could speak about Ragtime for hours.
During the run up to the Tony Awards—everybody’s saying, “Ragtime, Ragtime!” Then Lion King opened, and all of a sudden it became the battle of those two shows. The majority of the awards went to The Lion King, which was disheartening to us. But you still have to do the show after you lose the Tony. We were still getting an incredible response from the audience, but we were bummed.
And then, a few days later there was a news story about James Byrd, an African American man living in Texas, who got chained to a truck and dragged by some racists until he was dead. We had a cast meeting and we talked about it, and it kind of invigorated the show again. I remember feeling so ashamed. Like, “Oh, man, I can’t believe I’m bummed out about not getting a Tony Award.” Some shows get a Tony Award and some shows are much more important than that. Some shows are making another kind of statement. It’s not about awards. The fact that that’s still going on in the country—that’s what this show’s about. It was a stark reminder about the real reason we were doing this. It gave us this really deep sense of purpose. It was a kick in the butt.
And then, maybe two weeks after that, I get this long letter. It’s maybe six pages, single-spaced and very neatly written. This person starts describing his life: “I’m Caucasian, 20 years old…” It’s this long, rambling letter about his very ordinary life, living in the suburbs where he was raised and all of this. And then I get to the last paragraph: “The reason I’m writing this letter is because a couple of weeks ago I saw Ragtime, and when I left the theatre, I realized that I’d been a racist all my life and didn’t even know it.” And for me it was like, “Oh, shit, there it is again! There it is again.” Trailer of knives out movie.
Those signs that kept happening [at this point, Stokes is fighting tears]…that’s why I do this. Sometimes you get lucky. You get to do Kiss of the Spider Woman, and you get to do Ragtime. You get to do a show that speaks out about inequities, problems in our society, and calls attention to things that happened 100 years ago and are still happening.
The ability that art has to change somebody’s life in a second—I can’t think of anything else that does that, except for a traumatic experience, like a war. It changes people immediately. Art that has the ability—for somebody to look at a picture, to leave a show, and never think the same way again. I feel so lucky to do what I do. How did I get to be that guy? That I got to be a part of that? It’s mind-boggling to me. I get to do something for a living that is not only fun, I’m making a good living at it, and it’s putting good food into the world. It’s doing good things for people. It’s enlightening people. It’s making people more empathetic. It’s making people care about each other. It’s making people understand cooperation. It’s making people want to hug somebody else. It’s making people want to learn to be like somebody else. It’s making people want to be a better person, you know?
Brian Stokes Mitchell Wife
One of my mottos is “ride the wave.” Sometimes the wave’s big, and it takes you someplace wonderful. Sometimes it’s a little thing, and you just grab and ride as best as you can. Take it where you can. You ride the wave. The wave has taken me to some incredible places and continues to, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop, and it’s great, and I’m thankful for that. I’m just so incredibly grateful for my life and doing what I do. I just can’t believe it. And then to be a part of this community and the theatre? It’s a very elite group. And I don’t mean that in a snobby way. I mean it’s rare. It’s rarified air that I’m getting an opportunity to breathe. I’m an astronaut. I went to the moon. Whoa. Amazing.
Wheels Of A Dream Ragtime
Eddie Shapiro (he/him) is the author of Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater, Queens on the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks, and hundreds of articles in magazines including Out, Backstage West, In Theater, and Instinct.
Brian Stokes Mitchell Audra Mcdonald Ragtime
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