Rags was Kris Stewart’s thesis show while studying at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth.
Stephen Schwartz and Joe Stein’s Rags opened and closed on Broadway within a few days, and it was a show that never had a definitive version. For this production, Kris referred to two versions of the original Broadway libretto and a concert script created by Lonnie Price, and it was the perfect thing to do in a training establishment, where they could spend a lot of time and put a lot of resources towards what is a very ambitious idea.
Kris really tried to create a world that spoke evocatively of that moment in history – the teeming masses downtown, the new world being created around them, the oppressiveness and the hope. The show is flawed, of course, but the talent and effort that we were about to focus in this environment made it a spectacular success.
“It is a heartening experience to see such a dynamic, innovative production as the WA Academy production of Rags … (visually) it is a masterpiece, with its railway pylons, smoking streetgates and forbidding corrugated iron barriers. Under Kris Stewart’s skilled direction the scenes are played with an extraordinary realism and power … Rags is a rare opportunity for Perth audiences to see a big Broadway musical that doesn’t cost an arm or a leg at the ticket office. Everyone deserves a standing ovation – not just members of the cast, but also the designers, managers and director.” CLYDE SELBY (June 13, 1998), “The West Australian”.