"Tintypes," the delightful production that opened last night at Arena Stage's Old Vat Room, is subtitled "A Ragtime Revue."
It's much more than that: It is a fun-filled look at American around the turn of the century in song and skit, ragtime and vaudeville, Sousa marches and Victor Herbert love songs.
Using a cast of five versatile actors and a pianist, the company poked fun at and occasionally thought seriously of that period we think of as so charming, when the light bulb was a novelty and the telephone a luxury.
It was the era of Teddy Roosevelt and immigrant workers, the St. Louis World's Fair and French doyennes, George M. Cohan and Scott Joplin.
Roosevelt, the central historical figure in the production, is zestfully played by Timothy Jerome, who knows how to be exuberant without overdoing it. Always, the Roosevelt character is good for quick comic relief.
Mary Kyte, who conceived the production along with several others, has made sure to include a host of fanciful contrasts. What a sight it was to see the swaggering Roosevelt crooning to socialist Emma Goldman (played sedately by Mary Catherine Wright) shortly after she's appealed to the sweatshop workers. And they end up as a song and dance team!
After stirring laughter as Anna Held, a French singer who really could be from Indiana Carolyn Mignini sings Victor Herbert's "Kiss Me Again" with sensuousness and rapture. Her rendition was stunning in its resemblance to European art song.
To its credit, "Tintypes" does not simply parade rags by Scott Joplin and others from the 1890s (Indeed, Joplin is not a major part of the production). Instead, it looks at many lovely and hilarious songs from the entire turn-of-the-century period.
So we get acquainted with seldom-heard material by Joseph Lamb, Bert Wiliams and George Walker, James Reese Europe and Ed Moran.
The show's pace is fast, the cast is lively ahd talented and the material is fascinating. The combination ensures a joyful evening.