When the lavish musical “Ragtime” takes the stage at the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center on Wednesday, Nov. 4, a Mountaineer will be playing a key role in the production.
Todd Berkich, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in WVU’s School of Theatre & Dance, will play J.P. Morgan and several other roles in the musical’s national touring production.
“The musical covers the ragtime era, and it touches on all of these issues that are still relevant today,” said Berkich, who’s excited to play “the father of modern-day capitalism,” among other roles.
“Aside from the four principal characters, the whole ensemble gets to play multiple characters, and that’s really fun,” Berkich said.
His previous experiences on the stage of the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre include “Guys and Dolls” and the operatic adaptation of “Summer and Smoke.”
“I’m so happy that I get to come back and play on the concert theatre stage,” he said.
He hopes to get the chance to reconnect with some of his favorite WVU faculty members, including Lee Blair, an associate professor of acting. “Lee came from a musical theatre background and seemed to appreciate that I came with that skill set and sensibility to my work,” Berkich said.
Blair directed Berkich in two of the young actor’s favorite roles: Judge Danforth in “The Crucible,” which was Berkich’s graduate thesis performance, and Nicely-Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls,” a role he’d go on to recreate for a national tour of the classic musical.
Life on tour can be changeable. “Ragtime” officially opened with a full week in Las Vegas, including two matinee days, to be followed by a bunch of one-night stops back east. “You learn a lot about yourself in touring,” Berkich said. In spite of his profession’s reputation for free spiritedness, he’s a scheduler, and he resists unpredictability, which is a frequent factor of touring life. “You realize, though, that life’s too short, and you learn to just breathe and go with it.”
At WVU, he learned “to hold myself to a higher standard and never give up. WVU helped me understand that I had even more potential and all I needed to do was believe in myself.”
Berkich shares the experience of returning to the CAC with fellow College of Creative Arts alums like MaryJoanna Grisso, who returned to Morgantown to play Maria in the national tour of “West Side Story” in 2013. Grisso earned her BFA from WVU in 2011.
Tickets for “Ragtime” are still available and can be purchased at the Mountainlair and CAC box offices and by calling 304-293-SHOW (7469).
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