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RAGS Music by Charles Strouse: Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz: Book by Joseph Stein Opened 21 August 1986 - Mark Hellinger Theatre (4 Perfs) SYNOPSIS Rebecca, a Russian Jewish immigrant to the US at the turn of the century finds, to her dismay, that her husband who has preceded her, is determined to assimilate the American way and lose his ethnic identity in order to climb the social ladder. Subplots concern an elderly immigrant, his daughter and their respective romances, one of which ends tragically. It is a saga of hope and disappointments, of power and greed, of strength and love combined with memorable music. THE STORY It is 1910, the height of the great wave of immigration flooding into America from Eastern Europe. Five Jewish immigrants come over in steerage on the same boat: Rebecca Hershkowitz, fleeing a pogrom that destroyed her village, has come with her young son, David in hopes of being reunited with her husband, Nathan. Nathan has been in America for several years but has not yet sent for them. Avram Cohen and his teenage daughter, Bella, have come in search of a better life. And Ben Levitowitz, a brash young man who has fallen in love with Bella, has come to make his fortune in a land where the streets are said to be paved with gold. They are processed at Ellis Island along with hordes of others. Rebecca is not met by her husband, so she and David are given temporary shelter by Avram and Bella. Frightened and exhausted on their first night in the new world, they are nonetheless dazzled by the wonderful sights around them. Rebecca's search for Nathan seems hopeless, but when she is most discouraged, she remembers all she and David have gone through to get to America. The five immigrants go to work: Rebecca in a sweatshop, Bella doing piecework at home, Ben in a cigar factory, and Avram and David peddling from a pushcart. Their long hours and backbreaking labour are leavened by the music of an itinerant Klezmer band. Saul, a fiery labour organiser, is trying to unionise the shop where Rebecca works. He and Rebecca don't see eye-to-eye about "making trouble;" but he does persuade her to educate herself and David. One night, after an exhilarating outing to see a performance of Hamlet at the Yiddish theatre, Rebecca finds to her distress that she is falling in love with Saul. In the meantime, Bella is becoming bitterly disillusioned with the drabness of her life in America. Although she is momentarily diverted when Ben brings her a new gramophone, she hurls her feelings of frustration at her father and runs off to gaze longingly at the high life of the uptown swells. Meanwhile, at a local Irish pub, a meeting of Tammany politicians is underway. And who should be among them but Rebecca's husband, Nathan. He has renamed himself Nat Harris and is working his way up in local politics, doing dirty work for the corrupt Democratic machine. When he hears Rebecca and David are in America, he hurries off to look for them. Rebecca and Saul are spending more and more time together. But when David puts Saul's fighting ideas into practice with a gang of local hoodlums, he winds up getting badly beaten up. Rebecca sees this as repeating the danger and violence they had come to America to escape. She breaks with Saul. And just as she does, Nathan arrives. As Act Two begins, the family celebrates their reunion at the Cherry Street Café where Nathan, ever the politician, works the room. But privately, he reveals to Rebecca his contempt for immigrants like themselves and his determination to assimilate. Although Rebecca tells Saul she can never see him again, their feelings for one another remain strong.