Novelist E. L. Doctorow was never happy with the 1981 film adaptation of his 1975 hit novel, Ragtime, by director Milos Forman. "Forman misread my text," he says. The book interweaves historic and fictional characters in turn-of-the-century New York.

So, when Canadian theatrical producer Garth Drabinsky approached him about a musical version of the book, Doctorow agreed--but insisted upon approval over the creative team.

Sunday night, Ragtime the musical made its American debut in Los Angeles--and, this time, both the author and the critics are very pleased, indeed. The Los Angeles Times writes that the show is "so rich and so heart-rending, you are likely to spend all three hours of its duration fighting back tears. Ragtime is great theater. It's also the rare musical big enough to address millennial concerns about where we come from and who we would like to be."

Ragtime is one of those mega-musicals, with 22 different settings, including the Atlantic City boardwalk and the deck of a ship, with several Model T replicas puttering about, to boot. But, beyond the bells and whistles, says the Times, the show is grounded in some solid music (by Stephen Flaherty) and an adaptation (by Terrence McNally) that skillfully blends the three main story lines (about white, upperclass Americans, black migrants from the South and Eastern European immigrants). The show stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and John Rubinstein. It opens on Broadway in January.

Ragtime's producers hope it fares better than another mega-musical, Steel Pier. The new Kander and Ebb take on an Atlantic City dance-fest was the first big casualty of Broadway's busy spring season. It will close June 28 at a loss of more than $7.5 million.

The musical failed to capitalize on any of its 11 Tony nominations last month.

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