When the two boys, 5 and 7, walked backstage, they found a dressing room with their character’s name on it. “Young Coalhouse” the sign read, under the show’s name, “Ragtime.”
It was opening night of the show’s tour premiere at Fair Park’s Music Hall, and the boys were about to be fitted for an early 20th century sailor costume to wear during their scene at the close of the musical. It would be their first time performing on a Broadway stage.
After two run-throughs, the boys had it down. When 7-year-old James Hayes burst onto the stage for the show’s final scene, he was a natural.
James lives in Oak Cliff and attends St. Philip’s School in South Dallas. At the cast party afterward, James’ mother, Sherlyn McRinzie, said the bright lights didn’t faze him. Her son responds well to direction when he models, she says, and he is used to performing on stage as a drummer with several children’s choirs, including during the daily St. Philip’s chapel services.
“Ragtime” runs through Sunday, June 5 at Music Hall with tickets available on Dallas Summer Musicals’ website with discounted seats for some shows. Walk-on roles were created for this show and for upcoming shows “Bullets Over Broadway” and “42nd Street” because “we wanted to do something fun for the last three shows,” says Francisco Chairez, spokesman for Dallas Summer Musicals.
He reached out to St. Philip’s and several other area schools and organizations, encouraging parents to submit photos and descriptions of their children. Both James and Anthony Taylor, who also attends St. Philip’s, were selected for the part, with James performing the first week and Anthony the second.
In the dressing room on opening night, Anthony and 7-year-old James Hayes, who also attends St. Philip’s, made up a song during their fitting: “Sailor, sailor/ Sail along the seas/ Aye aye, captain/ Sail along with me.”
“Ragtime,” though it has plenty of light moments, includes some heady themes about class, race and culture clashes that were present in the early 20th century and still hover over the American landscape.
When the character of Young Coalhouse appears on stage in the show’s final moments, he represents the hope of the show and of the country. As James ran toward his theater family, the audience, oohed, aahed and broke into applause.
He was swung into the air then skips in a circle through the cast, who affectionately encouraged him as he made his way around. The show closes with him being propped up by the character of Coalhouse Walker Jr., both smiling and waving to the crowd.
James tells us this was his favorite part of the show, being lifted into the air as the audience thunderously applauds. Not surprisingly, he also tells us he wants to star on Broadway someday.