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  A fresh look at the musical Working enlivens the Asolo Repertory Theatre stage.   By Kay Kipling   Attending a matinee performance of the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Working, I couldn’t help but be struck by an irony: Virtually everyone in the audience was of retirement age, i.e., no longer “working,” as the characters in […]

May 19, 2008


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A fresh look at the musical Working enlivens the Asolo Repertory Theatre stage.
 
By Kay Kipling
 
Attending a matinee performance of the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Working, I couldn’t help but be struck by an irony: Virtually everyone in the audience was of retirement age, i.e., no longer “working,” as the characters in the musical are. No matter, though, they must have all “worked” at some time or other, and still found it possible to relate to the struggles, triumphs and observations of the working man and woman as told in this musical production.
 
Working is a new, updated version of the original by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso (from the book by Studs Terkel), which bowed 30 years ago and has had a long life in regional theaters since. Time to re-examine the way we work today, since a lot’s changed in those years, and time also for a couple of added songs by recent Tony nominee (for Broadway’s In the Heights) Lin-Manuel Miranda, offering a new tempo and a new outlook on the songs Delivery, featuring an engaging fast food delivery worker, and A Very Good Day, poignant in its look at people who do the jobs no one else seems to want, like taking care of children and the elderly. (Songs by Schwartz, James Taylor and other composers remain, too.)
 
The musical, as originally fashioned and as now directed by Gordon Greenberg, moves smoothly along as one worker’s story, told in the words of the real people interviewed, logically flows into another, from a trucker to a housewife, from a millworker to a union organizer, etc. Greenberg and scenic designer Beowulf Boritt bring us into the work of the cast and crew as well, with a three-level set that features actors’ dressing rooms on two levels and the musicians above them. The action moves from office cubicle to classroom to construction site with some simple props and backdrop projections of appropriate settings.
 

A strong cast of six, pared down from the original’s 17, brings energy and diversity to the stage, and each has several moments to really savor. A few favorites: Marie-France Arcilla as a millworker facing a lifetime of daily monotonous drudgery; Liz McCartney as a waitress who loves putting on a show as she serves; Darrin Baker as a laborer longing for his son to have a better life; Danielle Lee Greaves, touching as she apologetically describes herself as Just a Housewife; Nehal Joshi as an Indian tech support worker and a nurses’ aide; and Colin Donnell as a fireman who knows he makes a life-and-death difference every day in his job.

 

 

The cast of Working in one of the show’s new numbers, Delivery.

 
The cast also scores in the ensemble numbers, particularly the show’s closer, Something to Point To. For of course we all want to leave something behind to point to from our time spent working on this earth—like a 90-minute show, no intermission, that reminds us that we may indeed be what we do, but we can also be more.
 
Working runs through June 8 on the Asolo Rep mainstage; call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org.