Theater & Arts

Fresno boy gets small spotlight in ‘Ragtime’

Connor James Dje of Fresno will play Young Coalhouse when the national tour of “Ragtime” stops at the Saroyan Theatre.
Connor James Dje of Fresno will play Young Coalhouse when the national tour of “Ragtime” stops at the Saroyan Theatre. Special to The Bee

At the age of 4, Connor James Dje of Fresno is about to make his theatrical debut in the kind of professional production that many aspiring actors five times his age can only dream of.

The national tour of “Ragtime,” which opens Tuesday, March 15, for a two-night run at the Saroyan Theatre, will feature Connor in the role of “Young Coalhouse.” The tour traditionally casts a local boy in the small role.

“He’s been practicing his bowing,” says Connor’s mother, Mariah Moston, who sent in photos of her son to apply for the role.

The musical is based on E.L. Doctorow’s novel about an America at the turn of the 20th century grappling with the issues of race and immigration. (You’re right: Nothing ever changes.) The new touring production, directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, features a Tony Award-winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.

Young Coalhouse doesn’t have any lines in the musical, but he has to be able to project enthusiasm and stage presence for an audience that could be upwards of 2,000 people.

And he’ll be asked to do things like pretend to play the piano.

Connor is in the preschool program at Kratt Elementary School. His father is Johnathan Cushing.

Her son is extroverted and loves to entertain people, his mother says.

Is this role, which comes at the end of the show, going to keep Connor up past his bedtime?

“Um, yeah,” she says. “He will definitely be needing a nap during the day.”

Ragtime

Theater preview

  • 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, and Wednesday, March 16
  • Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St.
  • www.broadwayinfresno.com, 800-745-3000
  • $33-$60.50
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