BWW Review: The Cast of 'WORKING: A MUSICAL' Worked Overtime at UAB Department Of Theatre
One of the biggest struggles is the fight to wake up when that first alarm goes off in the morning. I say first alarm because I have learned the benefit of having multiple alarms in the morning to get ready for work. Ah, yes indeed, we all enter into our all too familiar routine of getting ready for work. A job is a job, and we all have to make a living, but what does "work" mean to you? Is it an end to means, is it a way to pass the time, or is it what someone expects of you? Common answers to the question of why I go to work was found in UAB Department of Theatre's recent production of "Working: A Musical". The show is based on original Broadway production opened in 1977. It's source material is the 1974 Studs Terkel book, "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do". The book was a 70's melting pot of revealing interviews with American workers in a wide array of occupations, many which are outside of the day-to-day radar. Time has brought revisions to the musical. After Y2K, new music and interviews were added to the show. Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso adapted the stories into music, along with a collection of songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor and orchestrations provided by Alex Lacamoire.
Director Valerie Accetta gave the show proper cadence to connect the multiple characters with the audience. The honest inner talk of real people sharing why they are motivated to work drives this production. It is a collection of dozens of real people giving real talk about what its like to work their job. The show bounces with monologues and songs about people working as a teacher, construction worker, waiter, truck driver, machinist, office manager and more. The cast is composed of driven and dynamic young actors with on point song and dance skills. Actors Lilly Bateh, Alicia Batterson, Eboni Booker, Zachary Lampe, Justine Nelson, Jeremy X. Richardson, Royzell Walker and Brian Wittenberg juggled multiple roles with full commitment and precision. Their terrific work on stage shined brighter than the periodically draggy lyrics and script. The play seemed to run long in duration. I felt the writing could be trimmed without sacrificing any of the essential story elements. The music fell into the same criticism. The songs were a definitive hit and miss collection of upbeat and emotional tracks. Different composers crafted each of the songs. The soundtrack holds some Broadway nods to "Motown" soul, "Godspell" rock, "Wicked" harmonies and high energy "Hamilton". Musical director Carolyn Violi delivered a strong delivery of the music with a tight rock band.
The coordinated stage crew gave assist to the quick on-stage costume changes and seamless scene transitions. The striking set designed by Emily Harris was cast in brownish metal girders that criss-crossed the stage. Risers on set added to the contained tone of being at the center of a huge building under construction. A constant misting of fog added to the feel of an enclosed atmosphere. Lighting designer Lew Williams accentuated the show with impressive lighting during each number. Choreographer Roy Lightner created a variety of energetic dance moves. In one sequence about a truck driver, the men in the ensemble moved as if they were driving on stage with rolling office chairs.
"Working: A Musical" is more of a patchwork quilt than a solid blanket of a musical. Since the songs were not of equal lyrical or compositional caliber, the cadence lagged as a result. Even with a spotty script, this cast with chemistry delivered fun and at times emotional performances.
University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Theatre
"Working: A Musical"
Director - Valerie Accetta
Musical Director - Carolyn Violi
Choreographer - Roy Lightner
Set - Emily Harris
Cast -Lilly Bateh, Alicia Batterson, Eboni Booker, Zachary Lampe, Justine Nelson, Jeremy X. Richardson, Royzell Walker, Brian Wittenberg
November 8-11, 15-18
The Odess Theatre
The Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center
1200 10th Ave South Birmingham, AL 35205