Lyricist/librettist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty's musical Dessa Rose is in some ways reminiscent of their stage adaptation of Ragtime in that it tells interweaving stories of black and white Americans and their confrontation with racism. Nominally speaking, Ragtime was the larger scale work, encompassing a huge cast, playing in a Broadway theater, and also taking on the immigrant experience in America. But Dessa Rose, which opened at the off-Broadway Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in New York's Lincoln Center on March 21, 2005, and ran through May 29, is described by annotator Ira Weitzman as a "folk opera", the term originally coined for Porgy and Bess, and this two-hour, full-length recording of the show, dialogue included, reveals that its artistic goals are at least as lofty as those of Ragtime. In her 1986 novel, Sherley Anne Williams created a fictional story combining the lives of two real-life women living in the South during the mid-19th century, a pregnant slave girl who incited a slave rebellion and a white woman, left alone on a plantation by her profligate husband, who harbored runaway slaves. Ahrens' adaptation finds both women, in old age, retelling their story, such that leads LaChanze, as Dessa Rose, and Rachel York, as Ruth, are forced to change back and forth from their old to their young selves, sometimes in the same scene. The story is heavily melodramatic, as the saintly African-American characters and the white woman who joins them struggle against the monstrous white men who enslave them, torture them, and try to rape them. The plot strains credulity at times, but it is less important than that, by the end, the bond of sisterhood overcomes barriers of race and jealousy. Flaherty's music naturally makes much use of 19th century American popular styles, from folk songs to society waltzes, with a heavy debt to Stephen Foster. The cast is talented and enthusiastic, lending a degree of authenticity to a work that otherwise might come across as contrived.