BWW Review: WORKING at Midland University Kimmel Theatre is One to Remember
Who knew that WORKING could be so much fun?
WORKING, a musical based on Studs Terkel's book, "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do," was adapted for the stage by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso. The musical features a collection of songs composed by Stephen Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, and James Taylor, and are as varied as the jobs featured in this series of vignettes.
Directed by Dan Hays, this is one of my favorite productions of the year. Together this mighty cast forms a cohesive unit that tells a series of stories with heart and passion.
The show opens with everyone on stage in dim light. Dressed in identical overalls with goldenrod shirts, they give the impression of Minions. But these workers are not cartoonish. Their stories are raw. They are funny. They are sad. They pull at your heartstrings. There is the sound of industry, and then the swelling chorus of "All the Livelong Day."
Each segment fades into the next with some connecting line. It has continuity. There is a steel worker, corporate executive, parking lot attendant, school teacher, millworker, stone mason, waitress, cleaning lady...nearly every walk of life is represented.
There's a construction worker who talks of lack of recognition. His father is disappointed he didn't go to college. He's just a laborer.
A project manager sings about people becoming nothing more than office furniture while ensemble members on stage simulate being desks and computers.
A migrant worker struggles to survive and is caught stealing a blanket to keep his siblings warm.
A prostitute brags about bringing in money for little effort while admitting she is lonely.
A fireman switches his career to saving lives when the possibility of taking lives as a cop become too much.
Movement plays an integral part in this production. Performers move together as vehicles in "Traffic Jam." They become shaking bushes as a newsboy tosses papers in "Neat to be a Newsboy."
Biannah Peji-Palm, who is a graceful dancer herself, is credited with choreography for "Millworker," a compelling piece about the repetitive nature of working in a suitcase factory.
The songs are melodic with cleverly thought out lyrics. Erika Anderson offers a beautiful rendition of "Just a Housewife." Riley Knight brings tears with "Fathers and Son." Choral numbers fill the house with harmony.
There is humor. Colton Hurley makes us laugh with his portrayal of a UPS man. Ryan Dusso and Adam Schact are hilarious in "Brother Trucker."
There is regret. There is the inability to communicate. There are dreams for a better future.
There is just too much to talk about in the body of this work. Let me just say that it is incredible and memorable.
I loved this production. It's not perfect; yet it is. WORKING is a work of art.
Photo courtesy of Midland University.