How do take a 36 character cast of an Off-Broadway musical and work it so that six actors play all of the roles in a span of about 90 minutes? Working is the name of the production that was first presented on Broadway in 1978 with stars that included Patti LuPone and Joe Mantegna. It is now being presented in an Off (not sure if is Off-off) Broadway venue, 59E59 (Yes, it's located at 59 E. 59th Street), by the Prospect Theatre Company and called "Working, A Musical".
Working, from the book by Studs Terkel, adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso (with additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg (who directed this production) included songs by Craig Carnella, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers & Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor. It's all about finding significance in your jobs.
As the audience enters, we see actors preparing, stage crew setting up the stage, and the stage manager doing a pre-show check. Half lights and the Stage Manager is cuing lights and some videos. Some are projections and we can see three old tape recorders playing at different points. One is of Chicago radio broadcaster Studs Terkel, who published a best selling compilation of interviews that involved a cross section of Americans talking about their jobs. The entire company sings, "All The Livelong Day".
Let me first give you the cast: Marie-France Arcilla, Joe Cassidy, Donna Lynne Champlin, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Nehal Joshi and Kenita R. Miller. Now, I'll give you the cast of characters in order of appearance along with the numbers.
Mike Dillard, ironworker (Joe). Rex Winship, hedge fund manager (Joe). Amanda McKenny, project manager (Kenita). Freddy Rodriguez, fast food worker (Nehal) as he and the ensemble sing, Delivery.
Rose Hoffman, school teacher (Donna). She sing "Nobody Tells Me How". Terry Mason, flight attendant (Marie). Frank Decker, interstate trucker (Jay). He and the ensemble sing, "Brother Trucker".
Raj Chadha, tech support (Nehal). Sharon Atkins, receptionist (Marie). Kate Rushton, housewife (Kenita). She sings, "Just A Housewife".
Conrad Sweibel, UPS delivery man (Jay). Roberta Victor, prostitute (Kenita). Candy Cottingham, fundraiser (Donna). Grace Clements, millworker (Marie). She and the ensemble sing, "Millwork".
The entire cast will sing, "If I Could've Been". Allen Epstein, community organizer (Nehal). Anthony Coelho, stone mason (Nehal). He sings, "The Mason". Eddie Jaffe, publicist (Joe). Delores Dante, waitress (Donna). She sings, "It's An Art".
Joe Zutty, retiree (Joe). He sings, "Joe". Tom Patrick, fireman (Jay). Utkarsh Trajillo, elder care worker (Nehal). Theresa Liu , nanny (Marie). Utkarsh and Theresa sing, "A Very Good Day".
Maggie Holmes, cleaning lady (Kenita). She and ensemble sing "Cleanin' Women". Ralph Werner, student (Jay). Charlie Blossom, ex-newsroom assistant (Nehal). Mike Dillard, ironworker (Joe) returns and sings "Fathers and Sons" along with an ensemble.
The last number is called "Something To Point To", sung by the company. It is all about those that work who do not get the recognition but can point to a building, bridge, road or something that they can recall having even a tiny piece of the action involving the job that they do. "The lumber was cut, decisions were made, the office is run, the coffee is sold, etc.".
Working, A Musical will have it's run at this venue until December 30th. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission, now renamed, "inter-pish-ion" by Mark Lord and myself. For those who are not privy to the Yidish word, "pish", it means "pee". Any intermission is an interpishion.
My critique. Most times a cast member would go off stage and return in a different outfit for the different character. There were many times that two members of the backstage crew would come onto the stage and redress the actor to change to another character without a change of lighting. Clever!
Favorite number was "It's An Art", due to both the humor, singing and presentation. Kudos to Donna who got it. Good voices. All in harmony and professional. However, there wasn't any particular performer that I would go out of my way to hear at a nightclub. Talented cast. All on cue. Good choreography by Josh Rhodes. Band was hidden above the "cubicles".
Here is Mark Lord's critique of the show.
"All of the songs in the show are holdovers from Broadway, with two new additions by Lin-Manuel Miranda,
of "In the Heights" fame. A few of the original numbers have been cut. Several lines have been added, too,
bringing the show a more up-to-date feel and lending it greater relevance.
Here, a cast of six talented and versatile performers takes on over two dozen roles. This means a lot of very quick costume changes, several of which are cleverly done in view of the audience. The wardrobe assistants pitch in with panache."
The choreography is simple but effective. Scene changes are interwoven seamlessly. Use of multi media
recordings and projections enhances the show's effectiveness. The show runs 95 minutes without intermission and flies by. In today's economy, it takes on extra poignancy."
For a complete schedule of upcoming shows go to www.59e59.org
IT'S BEEN AWHILE BUT
8 months ago