Lady Liberty hovers over the production of “Ragtime” currently under way at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

First, there’s the large sculpted face, based on the famous statue in New York Harbor, hanging above the stage as the audience enters. But later, as the much-heralded musical gets going, it becomes clear that the subject of freedom, as experienced and interpreted by a variety of new and not-so-new Americans at the turn of the 20th century, is at the center of it all.

Josh Young and Ella Luke-Tedeschi as Tateh and his daughter (the Little Girl).

Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, the 1998 Broadway musical gathers themes of wealth and poverty, racial, ethnic and religious divisions, women’s liberation, worker exploitation, police brutality and more into a nearly three-hour production. The story interweaves tales of privileged suburban whites, resourceful Jewish immigrants and newly empowered African-Americans rubbing up against each other as the country moves into a new century.

It might seem like too much to contemplate in one sitting. But the spirited song-and-dance numbers, informed by the syncopated styles of the period, assure that this production lives up to the show’s reputation for being both thoughtful and exuberant.

Darnell Abraham takes the central role of Coalhouse Walker Jr., a ragtime piano player who pursues his dream of respectability into a world far from ready to fully accept him. He teams with Lindsay Roberts as his love interest on such showstoppers as “Wheels of a Dream” and “Sarah’s Brown Eyes” and solos on the touching “Make Them Hear You,” employing a combination of vocal power and tenderness that grounds the show.

Roberts conveys a growing sense of identity in her character that matches that of Coalhouse, with equally tragic results.

Kirsten Scott plays the modernizing matriarch of a well-to-do family who finds the surprising seeds of a new life in her garden in the form of an abandoned baby. Scott takes advantage of all her musical moments. From an early “Goodbye My Love” to “Back to Before,” near the close, her obviously well-trained voice filled the venerable theater with both pure musical expression and emotive storytelling.

As Tateh, a poor immigrant from Latvia, Josh Young adds earthy grit as he seeks to protect his daughter (the Little Girl), played by Ella Luke-Tedeschi, and find “A Shetl Iz Amereke.” His best moment comes in a duet with Scott on “Our Children.”

Julian Decker and Jamie LaVerdiere’s privileged characters struggle with a world no longer so easily theirs alone. Carly Hueston Amburn provides tuneful comic relief as the irrepressible Evelyn Nesbit, and little Tyler Wladis does all he can to steal the show as an outspoken youngster.

Historical figures come and go, with Klea Blackhurst appropriately strident as Emma Goldman and Rod Singleton forthright as the dignified Booker T. Washington. Freddie Kimmel, as the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini, gets to slip some bonds.

The Ogunquit production of the McNally/Flaherty/Ahrens show, directed by Seth Sklar-Heyn, employs a minimal, metal frame set that can be reconfigured to suggest changing scenes, both grand and intimate. Period costumes are eye-catching in their detail, and the live musical accompaniment supports many soaring individual and collective vocals from the large cast.

Apart from fine lead performers, ensemble members stand out in quickly drawn individual characterizations and join in several uplifting chorus numbers. A graceful “Pas de Deux” by Darius Crenshaw and Anna Noble adds a touch of pure grace to this look at a time of rapid change.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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