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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Working :A Musical
By Macey Levin
Based on the book by Studs Terkel and adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso with additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg, the current version has songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor; all but Miranda composed music for the original production. The show is a concept musical in that there is no story line; rather it is a series of monologues and songs that reveal the dreams and frustrations of America's work force including a hedge-fund innovator, a trucker, a call-girl a housewife and those in between. The cast play multiple roles in 25 scenes.
Rose Hoffman (Farah Alvin) is a highly experienced teacher who is having difficulty in the contemporary educational environment. She sings of her woes in "Nobody Tells Me How," by Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, trying to relate her past expertise to the challenges of a diverse population and the digital age. It is a poignant picture of a changing world made even more dynamic by Maggie Holmes (Erica Dorfler) as a third-generation cleaning woman in "Cleanin' Women," by Micki Grant, who will not let her daughter become the next domestic in the family.
Grace Clements (Julie Foldesi) and Allan Epstein (Denis Lambert) bemoan the mind-numbing tedium of working in a factory in James Taylor's "Millwork." The same holds true when Freddy Rodriquez (Devon Kolluri) complains about his job in a fast-food restaurant singing "Delivery" by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Kate Rushton (Farah Alvin) and the working housewives Go through their mundane day and familial responsibilities while saluting the importance of these women in Craig Carnelia's "Just a Housewife." Delores Dante (Katie Barenboim) leads her co-worker waitresses in "It's an Art" by Stephen Schwartz in which they detail the preparation and devotion to this workaday job. A very touching number is "Joe" by Craig Carnelia. Joe (Miles Wilkie) is retired and reminisces about his old job and the unexceptional routine of his current life.
The production has been intelligently and movingly directed by James Barry. Though tight, it could use an intermission . . . an hour and forty-five minutes is a long time to hold an audience's attention without a respite. Barry's staging along with the choreography by Ashley DeLane Burger is bright, clever and well-timed. Most of the scenes employ the full 10-member cast who unobtrusively execute some of the set changes which are mostly chairs and tables. Barry has emphasized the intention of the writers and composers. In addition to the workers' lives he also underlines the fact that this is an American play. When the audience enters there is a slide show depicting the founding of the country and the recurring influxes of immigrants through the ages who have come to America to find a job that will create a better life.
On a facade at the rear of the stage Nicholas Hussong has produced charming and supportive graphics for each scene as well as the basic scenic design. Lighting designer Oliver Wason draws the audience's attention to the most immediate elements of each number or monologue telling us where to focus. Asta Benie Hostetter's myriad costumes are simple but immediately inform the audience of the characters' station in society. The four piece band led by music director Casey Reed is on tune though some of the volume could be modulated.
The play, and this terrific production, is filled with insights into our country's labor force who are the ones who drive its engine. Without them, what would we do?
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Working: A Musical, from the book by Studs Terkel,
Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso with additional contributions by Gordon Greeenberg; Songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, and James Taylor
Directed by James Barry
Choreography by Ashley DeLane Burger
Music direction by Casey Reed
Cast: Farah Alvin (Rose Hoffman, Kate Rushton, Candy Cottingham) Katie Birenboim (Amanda McKenny, Delores Dante) Erica Dorfler (Sharon Atkins, Maggie Holmes) Julie Foldesi (Terry Mason, Grace Clements) Tim Jones (Frank Decker, Eddie Jaffe, Tom Patrick) Deven Kolluri (Freddy Rodriguez Raj Chadha, Utkrash Trujillo, Denis Lambert (Allan Epstein, Mike Dillard) Jaygee Macapugay (Roberta Victor, Theresa Liu) Rob Morrison (Rex Winship, Anthony Coelho, Ralph Werner) Miles Wilkie (Conrad Swibel, Joe Zutty)
Scenic and Projections Design: Nicholas Hussong
Lighting Design: Oliver Wason
Costume Design: Asta Bennie Hostetter
Sound Design: Nathan Leigh
Stage Manager: Kacey Gritters
Assistant Stage Manager: Korey Sanders
Musical coordinator: Jeff Link
Running Time: one hour-forty-five minutes; no intermission
Berkshire Theatre Group, Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, MA
From 7/18/19; closing 8/24/19
Reviewed by Macey Levin at July 20th performance
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