"Has the work week got you down? Are you exhausted from job hunting? Whether you are employed or not, the importance of having a job has reached astronomical proportions, especially in today's economic climate. Just ask anyone who's been summarily laid off.
While employment doesn't seem to be a fit subject for a musical show, Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso took a 1973 best-seller by Studs Turkel containing interviews workers from all walks of life and turned it into a riveting revue called Working; the script was updated in 2010 to reflect the changing face of jobs and workers. The new version contains songs by such varied composers as James Taylor, Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), Craig Carnelia and Micki Grant.
Once again, under Barbara Krajkowski's deft directorial hand, the Women's Theater Company has mounted a polished and insightful production of this landmark play. Warren Helm's musical direction and Lauren Moran Mills' staging provides the icing on this musical theater confection.
Krajkowski has assembled a top-notch cast of six, all of whom form a true ensemble as they form intricate patterns that cross the stage and provide able support for each other. It is very difficult to single out individual performances, that's how interconnected and in tune they are.
Together, the sestet performs the opening and closing numbers, and one about half-way through the 90-minute production. All are anthems that celebrate the work itself, the workers' unrealized dreams and the pride in the contributions the workers do provide.
In between, we hear from an iron worker who, like his father before him, constructs the skeletons of skyscrapers, a fast-food delivery boy, a money manager, a stewardess, a call girl, a press agent and a stay-at-home mom, among others. Debra Lynch bemoans the plight of the veteran third-grade teacher who has to fact the changes in education and students, but "Nobody Tells Me How." Brittany Goodwin is marvelous as the mill worker singing James Taylor's ode to "Millwork" in a job she will have to perform every 40 seconds "for the rest of the mornin', the rest of the afternoon and the rest of [her] life." Her fatigue is palpable.
Joe Elefante is especially poignant as "Joe," the retiree who tries to fill his day with meaningful activities. Elefante's expressive face and sad eyes highlight the man's delight at recalling a boyhood trip to an amusement park or a dance with a girl he liked, and the realization that at the end of the day, he's alone. Scott McGowan is a master of accents, witness his turn as a fireman (a NY accent) and a trucker driving his rig out on the open road ("Brother Trucker"). Lia Antolini-Lid has a nice turn as a waitress who turns her job into a dramatic production ("It's and Art") in an effort to wrest some dignity from what is essentially a service profession. And Danny Arnold aptly conveys the dignity of the stone mason who can point with pride to the buildings he's helped erect; he can even spot a brick that's slightly out of place!
With the addition of a hat, an apron, a sweater or a jacket, Brian Grace and Joan Ludwig transform the actors dressed in rather nondescript gray togs into the workers and professions they portray. Jonathan Wentz's gray set features gears and clocks appropriate to any job, and Nick Downham's lighting directs our attention to the featured actor(s). Erica Conrad, assisted by Angelica Guarino and Lizette Zuccamaglia, has assembled a plethora of props to enhance our experience of the various jobs.
Working raises some important questions regarding the nature and importance of work. Is what you do who you are? Do jobs define people? You can decide whether Working answers those questions for you. But one thing is sure, the six actor/singers onstage at the Women's Theater Company let us see the real person behind the job title, and our world is richer for the experience.
Working will be performed at the Parsippany Playhouse, 1130 Knoll Road, Lake Hiawatha on weekends through March 23. For information and tickets, go to www.womenstheater.org, call 973.316.3033 or firstname.lastname@example.org."
Reviewed by Ruth Ross of NJArtsMaven.com