With close to a dozen men and women standing around and singing about their jobs; Working is like the reality television show of musicals (one of those classier ones on Discovery or the History Channel). And in a newly revised, post-recession Working, things get even more real.
The show, staged with minimal fuss by Keegan Theatre, has a conceit that feels a little like A Chorus Line: It’s based on a series of interviews that author Studs Terkel conducted with people in the ’70s about the highs and lows of their careers. Their stories get strung into a musical revue with snippets of dialogue and songs from a number of composers, from Wicked creator Stephen Schwartz to In the Heights‘ Lin Manuel Miranda, who lends two new songs to the piece based on additional interviews conducted in the late 2000s. The newest incarnation of Working keeps fresh by focusing on topics such as unsung heroes of the home health-care profession and locally familiar jobs such as press secretary.
Keegan has assembled several strong singers for Working–such as Priscilla Cuellar, whose powerful pipes are showcased in multiple numbers…”
“The Mason Singer,” sung wistfully by John Loughney, is about a man envious of the content way a stone worker attends to his tasks, knowing he’s achieving longevity with the buildings he constructs (wanting to achieve immortality through career is a theme that runs through Working). The plaintive “Just a Housewife” (suddenly given a “ripped from the headlines” feel due to recent political debates) focuses on women who feel marginalized by those who put down their decision to opt out of the traditional workforce. On the jazzier side of things, there’s the showstopping “It’s an Art,” the statement of a very satisfied and theatrical waitress (Sherry Berg), and the gospel-influenced women’s number “Cleanin’ Women.” Director Shirley Serotsky moves the show along with punchy choreography and rapid transitions.