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'Ragtime' features alumni of Schalmont, Guilderland

'Ragtime' features alumni of Schalmont, Guilderland

Matt Curiano and Cecilia Snow may be in the early stages of two very long careers in the theater, bu
'Ragtime' features alumni of Schalmont, Guilderland
Matt Curiano, a Schalmont High School graduate, plays the role of Tetah, a Jewish immigrant, in "Ragtime" at Proctors. With him is Cara Myers as Little Girl. (Scott Suchman photo)

Matt Curiano and Cecilia Snow may be in the early stages of two very long careers in the theater, but very little in whatever lies ahead will surpass what happens this weekend.

Curiano, a 2008 graduate of Schalmont, and Snow, a 2010 Guilderland alum, are performing in the national touring production of “Ragtime,” taking center stage at Proctors for two shows on Saturday and a Sunday matinee.

’Ragtime;

WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $55-$20

MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org

Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, “Ragtime” tells the story of three ethnic groups in New York City on the eve of the 20th century.

“Hopefully, I won’t be out there crying through the whole show,” said Curiano, who plays Tetah, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia. “I grew up going to Proctors. I was probably there a couple hundred times. It’s the place where I was inspired to get into the theater, so it’s incredibly exciting for me.”

While Curiano was a regular customer at Proctors, Snow was afforded an even closer view of how the theater world works.

“My mom and my grandfather were woodwind specialists, and they played for numerous national tours that came through Proctors,” said Snow, who is part of the ensemble and the understudy for the lead female role, Sarah.

“I grew up going there, and I often got a behind-the-scenes look at the theater. To think that I’m going to be performing there is just crazy. I’m very excited.”

“Ragtime” was made into a Hollywood film with James Cagney in 1981, and was turned into a Broadway musical in 1998 by Terrence McNally (book), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music).

Included in the story are several actual figures from history, including  Booker T. Washington, Harry Houdini, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan. Along with Tateh’s struggle, the play focuses on a Harlem musician named Coalhouse Walker Jr., and an upper-class Protestant family from New Rochelle.

“The issues this show deals with make it an extremely moving story,” said Curiano, who recently came off a national tour of “Camelot” with the same production company, Phoenix Entertainment. “I think we have something really special here. There are moments that carry the show, and will really stay with you.”

Curiano was originally heading for a psychology degree at Stony Brook on Long Island before changing his major to music and transferring to Pace University, where he graduated in 2012.

“I told my parents that if I didn’t do this theater thing now I would regret it for the rest of  my life,” said Curiano, whose father is a dentist and his mother a nurse. ”They wanted me to major in something with maybe a little more stability, which is fair, but they supported me and have  been wonderful role models for me.”

He had a handful of good teachers at Schalmont who gave him exactly what he needed to help keep his dream of a theater career alive.

“I was very lucky to have some great teachers at Schalmont who helped me along the way,” he said. ”It was a small school and the theater could have been thrown to the side for sure, but they worked so hard for us kids to make it work. They were amazing.”

At Guilderland, Snow was 14 when she performed in her first musical, “Hello Dolly!” While she is not playing one of the leads in “Ragtime,” she does get an opportunity to shine and demonstrate her vocal talents.

“I have a few good moments that feature me,” she said. “When we do ‘Till We Reach That Day,’ there’s a soprano who’s singing her lungs out and that’s me. Just to be part of this incredibly talented ensemble is a huge thrill for me.”

She was working at a regional professional theater in Buffalo before she landed her gig with “Ragtime.”

“My goal is to eventually move to New York City,” she said. “I love Buffalo, but Buffalo and I had an understanding. At some point I was going to leave. It was always only temporary.”

One of her teachers at Guilderland was Rae Jean Teeter, who also worked with her individually as a voice coach.

“She’s a very gifted young lady, and anyone who knows Cecilia isn’t surprised at what she’s doing,” said Teeter.

“You could see in high school she had the passion and determination to make it. She’s also a thankful, humble young woman who doesn’t take this for granted. She’s earned it, she deserves it, but she’s also very appreciative.”

’Ragtime’ evolution

1975 — The novel by E.L. Doctorow wins the National Book Critics Circle Award.

1981 — Hollywood’s film version earns eight Oscar nominations and stars James Cagney and Mandy Patinkin.

1998 — The show becomes a Broadway musical with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald and earns 13 Tony nominations.

2009 — The first revival earns seven Tony nominations, and was the first revival of any 1990s musical.

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