Rags is a new musical that follows the life of the Jewish immigrant Rebecca (voiced by the wonderful Carolyn Maitland) and her son as they adapt to their new life in America. Due to this Rags is a very serious a political piece of theatre that deals with societies view of Immigrants and how they actually contribute/benefit the communities they relocate into. The musical is based on the book by Joseph Stein (who also wrote Fiddler On The Roof) and it is clear to see the similarities they shares. There is almost a constant violin playing in all the songs which really adds to the atmospheric and portrays the important themes the show represents!
The opening song in Rags, titled aptly Opening, is one of the most unusual opening musical numbers I have ever listened to. It opens with a very atmospheric and mysterious violin with no accompaniment which establishes the idea of Judaism due to the musical motif. The song then takes a strange turn toward the latter section of number as there was a collection of unusual and strange voices almost chanting which was a shock to hear. These two musical sections could not be more conflicting which does take the listener on somewhat of a musical journey but leaves you thinking ‘what have I just listened to?’ and the answer is still unknown to me. The song titled ‘Greenhouse’ demonstrates the views some people still have of immigrants with them being forced to do the jobs that no one else wants. At the same time, it portrays the richer, power-hungry factory owners who exploit these people for cheap lager. The frantic nature and character perspective in this song represent this power struggle excellently and allow the listeners to become aware of the conflict between the two groups. I did notice that the majority of the songs in this playlist are very short with the majority averaging at only 2 Minutes. This means you never have a pulled-out, dragging ballad or ballad sakes but rather honest and direct lyrics.
My favourite number is Rags is the song titled “Fabric Of America” which is a clever play of words. This song is clearly set on a sewing show where immigrants are being exploited for cheap labour and are crafting dresses. When people use the phrase “fabric of ‘whatever’” it means what makes that thing what it is. In this case, it is talking about what makes America so special which is the idea of the American dream but also the fact that it has all been built by immigrants which is insanely clever. Additionally, the theme of sewing represents Rebecca’s cultural identity. The purpose of sewing is joining two different pieces into one and harks to the fact that Rebecca has to balance her family culture with her newfound American life into one identity for herself. Carolyn Maitland possesses a beautiful voice and this is showcases all through the playlist for Rags. During her duet during the song “Wanting” with Alex Gibson-Giorgio, their voices blended together beautifully to create one of the most moving songs in the entire musical. These two actors clearly poured their hearts and souls into the song which their voices perfectly complementing each other to create this heavenly singing. During “Children Of The Wind” Carolyn yet again showed how much of a wonderful performer she is by singing this moving number about progress.
Overall, this is a musical that highlights a very important issue regarding immigration and cultural identification. This show shows these immigrants in a positive perspective that is obviously beneficial and hopefully will reduce the rate of hate crime these people endure. Rags is a more emotional and serious than I usually enjoy but the message behind it is super important. I would rate this soundtrack 4 out of 5 stars and recommend Rags do anyone wondering about the political power musical theatre can have!