Book by Joseph Stein | Music by Charles Strouse | Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

With great passion and humor, the story is told of Rebecca, a naive Russian immigrant arriving at Ellis Island with her young son, and their struggle to make a life for themselves in the New World. She goes to work in a sweatshop while searching for her husband who has preceded them to America. When they are finally reunited she discovers that his assimilation is not entirely for the best. His desire to change their name and strip away their ethnic culture so as to fit in with his cronies distresses Rebecca, whose gradual enlightenment leads her into union activities against the very men her husband so hopes to impress. Subplots concern an elderly immigrant, his daughter, and their respective romances, one of which ends tragically. This sweeping saga of awakenings and disappointments, of greed and power, of strength and love is as deeply moving and inspirational a musical as you could hope to present.

*At the request of the authors, the rights to license this show are currently unavailable in North Carolina and Mississippi.

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About The Show

News for Rags

Production Info

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News for Rags

Williamson Music President Maxyne Lang and Williamson Music composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz will be recipients of awards from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame this year... read more

The premature closing of the musical RAGS in 1986 proved to be less an ending than the beginning of this show's fascinating journey. read more

Trivia for Rags

In 1986 RAGS opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. It was nominated for five Tony awards, including Best Musical, Book, and Original Score.
The birthday of Stephen Schwartz, award-winning composer and lyricist of GODSPELL, PIPPIN, and WICKED, among other shows. Schwartz wrote lyrics for the musical RAGS.
In 1912 Birthday of Joseph Stein, book writer for the musical RAGS.
The birthday of Charles Strouse, composer of the musicals RAGS, ANNIE, and BYE BYE BIRDIE.

 Press for Rags

  • Quotes
"A sumptuous, melodic score." — Variety, January 01, 1999
"There is a grand and epic quality to RAGS, reflected in the high seriousness of Charles Strouse's ambitious score, the nimble passion of Stephen Schwartz's lyrics, and the very scope of Joseph Stein's sweepingly panoramic story." — New York Post
"A high-minded musical play in the tradition of SHOW BOAT and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF." — The Village Voice
"A beautiful and stirring experience...RAGS has a deeply felt story, a rich and varied score and haunting lyrics." — Boston Herald
"A stunning score! An ambitious combination of ragtime tunes, operatic arias, and musical comedy songs." — CD Review
"One of the richest and most distinguished Broadway scores of recent years." — Theatre Week, January 01, 1999

Musical Numbers for Rags

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Song Name
Character Name
Other Versions

Awards for Rags

Vocal Range of Characters:

Photos for Rags

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Writers Notes for Rags

Written By: Stephen Schwartz

“RAGS began as a project initiated by Joseph Stein, the book writer. He had been asked by producer Lee Guber to write a sort of sequel to his show FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, describing what happened to Tevye and his family after they left Anatevka and came to America (hence the fact that the characters are Russian immigrants). As Joe worked, the show gradually evolved into being about a different family. I believe it was Lee Guber's suggestion to focus the show on a woman character, and Joe came up with the idea for Rebecca, a young woman who arrives to join her husband and then is thrown back on her own devices when he isn't there to meet her. The inclusion of the rise of labor unions was always a part of the story, as it was so integral to the history of that era and something that Joe cares about socially and politically.I wouldn't say that there was anything going on nationally that particularly affected this production. Perhaps people were a bit more interested in their heritage then, and America was less imperial in its attitude, so we looked to our European backgrounds with more of a sense of continuity. But that's speculative and generalizing. I know for me personally, working on the show made me more interested in my own family heritage, and I learned for the first time more about where my parents' families had come from and some fascinating stories about the experiences of their parents and grandparents.I always do a great deal of research for a show such as RAGS. I did an enormous amount of reading about the Lower East side and the immigrant experience of that time, making note as always of specific details that would help give verisimilitude and visual evocativeness to the lyrics. I went out to Ellis Island and looked around there (it had not yet been opened to the public), did walking tours of the Lower East side, visited museums such as the Jewish Museum in New York, etc. I read novels of the period such as The Rise of David Lavinsky. There is of course a rich photographic record of the time, which was also very useful. I always enjoy the research part of a project, and working on RAGS was perhaps my most enjoyable and enlightening research experience. RAGS is big story-oriented musical with a non-self-referential non-ironic score and serious and somewhat sentimental subject matter. For myself, I remain extremely proud of the score for RAGS. I think it is Charles Strouse's best music, and that's saying a lot, and I feel good about my lyrics.”

Performance Tools for Rags

Playbill VIP:

MAKE YOUR OWN PLAYBILL! Playbill VIP allows you to create your very own Playbill Program. We have provided Playbill with all of the credits, song listings, musical numbers and more so that most of the work is already done for you. Just add your productions details, photos of the cast and share it with all of your friends. Learn more: www.playbillvip.com

Rental Materials for Rags


  • RAGS - Orchestra Package (23 Books/23 Players, 5 Onstage)
    • 1 – KEYBOARD I (Acoustic Piano, Synthesizer)
    • 1 – KEYBOARD II (Synthesizer)
    • 1 – REED I (Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet, Soprano Sax)
    • 1 – REED II (Piccolo, Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Pennywhistle or Recorder)
    • 1 – REED III (Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Tenor Sax, Optional Pennywhistle)
    • 1 – REED IV (Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax)
    • 1 – HORN
    • 1 – TRUMPET I-II
    • 1 – TROMBONE (With F Attachment. Doubles Tuba)
    • 1 – PERCUSSION (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
    • 1 – DRUMS (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
    • 2 – VIOLIN I-II (Divisi)
    • 1 – VIOLA (Divisi)
    • 1 – BASS
    • 1 – GUITAR (Doubles Mandolin and Banjo)
    • 1 – ONSTAGE TUBA
  • Overture Orchestration (27 Books)
    • 1 – REED I (Piccolo, Flute, Soprano Sax)
    • 1 – REED II (Flute, Clarinet)
    • 1 – REED III (Oboe)
    • 1 – REED IV (Flute, Clarinet, Soprano Sax)
    • 1 – REED V (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Alto Sax)
    • 1 – REED VI (Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax)
    • 1 – HORN I
    • 1 – HORN II
    • 1 – HORN III
    • 1 – TRUMPET I
    • 1 – TRUMPET II
    • 1 – TRUMPET III
    • 1 – TROMBONE I
    • 1 – TROMBONE II
    • 1 – TROMBONE III
    • 1 – TUBA
    • 2 – PERCUSSION (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
    • 1 – PIANO
    • 1 – Drums
    • 1 – GUITAR (Doubles Banjo)
    • 2 – VIOLIN A-B
    • 1 – VIOLA (Divisi)
    • 1 – CELLO (Divisi)
    • 1 – BASS
  • Rehearsal Set (24 Books)
    • 20 – Libretto-Vocal Books
    • 1 – Logo CD
    • 20 – Errata Sheets: Greenhorns
    • Digital Logo
  • Yankee Boy Orchestration (17 Books)
    • 1 – KEYBOARD I
    • 1 – KEYBOARD II
    • 1 – REED I (Flute, Piccolo)
    • 1 – REED II (Piccolo, Clarinet)
    • 1 – REED III (Clarinet)
    • 1 – REED IV (Clarinet)
    • 2 – TRUMPET I-II
    • 1 – TROMBONE
    • 1 – PERCUSSION (see "Materials Notes", under "Production Information")
    • 1 – DRUMS (Trap Set and Wood Block)
    • 2 – VIOLINS I-II
    • 1 – VIOLA
    • 1 – BASS
    • 1 – GUITAR (Tacet)
    • 1 – HORN


  • Libretto/Vocal Books 10 pack
    • 10 – Libretto-Vocal Books
    • 1 – Libretto-Vocal Books

Cast Requirements for Rags

4 Women
4 Men
1 Boy

4 Women
5 Men

Singing-dancing ensemble with numerous small roles and much doubling possible.

Rebecca Hershkowitz
Nathan Hershkowitz
Mr. Rosen
Weathy New Yorker
Herschel Cohen
Anna Cohen
Man on Stilts
David Hershkowitz
An American
Irish Tenor on Recording
An American
'Big Tim' Sullivan
Homesick Immigrant
Italian Tenor
Social Worker
Avid Shopper
Italian Tenor's Mother
Irish Girl
Bella Cohen
Avram COhen
Irish Girl's Mother
Jack Cohen
Rachel Halpern
Nathan's Landlady
Violinist's Mother
Editor of Newspaper
Mr. Bronstein
A Passerby
Cigar Boss
Morris's Mother
Mrs. Sullivan

The show can be effectively cast with ten actors doubling as follows:
1. Rebecca Hershkowitz
2. David Hershkowitz (cut Morris and have David record his voice in 'The Sound of Love')
3. Bella Cohen
4. Customer; Shopper; Rosa; Affluent American; Rag Picker; Morris' Mother
5. Avram Cohen; Hamlet; Big Tim Sullivan
6. Landlady; Rachel; Ophelia; Affluent American; Mrs. Sullivan
7. Guard; Saul
8. Affluent American; Nathan
9. Immigrant; Guard; Editor; Klezmer Musician; Mr. Bronstein; Affluent American; Man; Striker
10. Ben; Affluent American

Set Requirements for Rags

RAGS requires a unit set with movable pieces to represent various locations throughout the Lower East Side in Manhattan, 1910.

The Hold of a Ship Nearing America
Ellis Island, and a Dock at Battery Park
The Cohen's Tenement Apartment on Suffolk Street
Bronstein's Sweatshop
A Street on the Lower East Side
The Stoop in front of the Cohen's Apartment building
The Yiddish Theatre
Suffolk Street
The Roof of the Cohen's Apartment Building
The East Side Democratic Club
Union Square

Materials Notes

DRUMS: Trap Set, Triangle, Wood Block, Gong, Chimes, Finger Cymbals, Sleigh Bells, Temple Blocks, Cabasa, Anvil, Crash Cymbal.
STRING NOTE: In the original Broadway pit of RAGS there were 2 Players on Violin I, 2 Players on Violin II, and 2 Violists.
ONSTAGE INSTRUMENT NOTE: The on stage musicians were separate musicians from the pit musicians.
Vibraphone, Temple Blocks, Xylophone, Timpani, Sandpaper Blocks, Suspended Cymbal, Crash Cymbal, Wood Block, Triangle, Bass Drum, Cow Bell, Chimes, Ratchet, Tambourine, Glockenspiel, Anvil, Gong, Finger Cymbals, Splash Cymbal, Cabasa.

Featured News

Songwriters Hall of Fame Honors Stephen Schwartz & Maxyne Lang

Williamson Music President Maxyne Lang and Williamson Music composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz will be recipients of awards from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame this year...

Read More
From Rags To Riches

The premature closing of the musical RAGS in 1986 proved to be less an ending than the beginning of this show's fascinating journey.

Read More

Media Rights

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