Strong B.O. for ‘Ragtime’

Tickets moving at a brisk tempo

NEW YORK — A pan — respectful, but a pan — in the New York Times didn’t keep “Ragtime” from a strong showing at the box office Monday. The daily wrap for the Broadway musical’s first day after opening night was expected to top $2.3 million in single-ticket sales and group reservations, according to Livent Inc. estimates Monday afternoon.

Livent would not break out the single-ticket sales — hard cash — from the group reservations, but one source put the single sales at about $600,000 by late afternoon.

By any standard but that set by Disney’s “The Lion King” — Broadway’s one-day record-holder with $2.7 million in single-ticket sales — the “Ragtime” B.O. showing was hearty. Livent chairman Garth Drabinsky told Daily Variety Monday that the musical’s advance was $17.6 million.

Reviews of Livent’s $10 million tuner ranged from mixed to raves. The New York Daily News called the show “mesmerizing,” the New York Post began its review with the word “Wow” and Time magazine ended its with “Bravo.”

But New York Times chief critic Ben Brantley wasn’t so moved, opening his review by asking why “Ragtime” feels “so utterly resistible.” Although noting that “Ragtime” includes “much to admire,” there “is finally little to fall in love with.”

Newsday’s notice was similarly mixed (“spontaneity has lost out to emotional efficiency”) and Newsweek noted that “for all its intelligence and integrity (‘Ragtime’) does not reach the dimension of emotional and social vision that would lift it to a transcendent level.”

Based on E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, “Ragtime,” with music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book by Terrence McNally and direction by Frank Galati, opened to very strong local reviews in Los Angeles last May and in Toronto the previous December.

A new block of tickets went on sale Monday, with the show selling briskly through September.

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