Working: A Musical
Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso
Based on a book by Studs Terkel
Directed by Dr. Jennifer Cavenaugh
Musical Direction by Jamey Ray
Choreography by Missy Barnes
Annie Russell Theatre, Winter Park FL
We live to work, we work to live and if you’re not working, you’re either very fortunate or very unfortunate. But for most of us there’s someone named “Boss” in your life, and you owe him your daily bread. Back in 1974 journalist Studs Terkel wrote the book this show is based on: interviews with working stiffs who collectively keep this world going. They wait tables, lift steel, babysit, trade stocks, clean floors, drive trucks, and they are all uniquely different and all exactly the same.
There’s Mike the iron worker (Nicholas d’Alessandro) who surprises college students by keeping a book in his pocket. Fireman Tom (Casey Castile) tells a horror story of almost shooting a man accidently when he was a cop and which made him change careers. High class sex worker Roberta (Lalitha Kasel) rents herself out for a few hundred an hour and Grace (Elodie Germaine) sweats making felt at minimum wage. A touching moment came from stone mason Anthony (Nicholas Petersen-Gyongyosi), he was the only worker who found a sense of destiny in his job: he knew he was building for the centuries, not for the rent. Petersen also played the sleazy hedge fund manager who complained about market regulations. He’s the only one on stage who made more money than Roberta. And the most touching story? Hands down that was Freddy (Bernard Farquharson) as the migrant farm worker mourning over the waste of a salad. Only he knew the sweat and misery needed to put lettuce on a table.
But this is a musical, and there are more than few great numbers here . “Brother Trucker” (music by James Taylor) took us into the world of white line fever where a man can’t even stop off at home when he was passing it 15 minutes away. There’s retired Joe (Richard Owens singing music by Craig Carnelia) looking for meaning in life when he no longer needed to labor. Then there’s almost a rip off of “Nine to Five” called “Cleanin’ Women” (music by Micki Gant). It’s the story of the family traditions of those who come in after hours to polish the glass and vacuum the carpets.
There’s a strong parallel to “Chorus Line” here; the entertainment is based on dozens of short mini-dramas without a real narrative through line. But it’s still moving and thought provoking, and at intermission I was comparing first jobs with a guy in the next seat. He had done the fast food thing; I began as a grocery inventory guy, counting the cheese and the frozen juice cans. Your life exists in this story somewhere, and it’s an excellent opening from a recently revamped Annie Russell team.
For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html