The Keegan Theatre brings to Washington the not-often performed musical, Working – A Musical, a show based on the well-known book of the same name from the 1970s by Studs Terkel that features a series of interviews with various American laborers talking about their jobs, lives and dreams. Working is not a typical musical. The book (adapted by Stephen Schwartz, Nina Faso, and Gordon Greenberg) does not boast any continuing narrative, but rather addresses the singular theme of working through a series of monologues and songs about each of the characters’ jobs, ranging from manual laborers to high power brokers.
The eclectic score is made up of songs by a number of famed composers including Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Susan Birkenhead and Mary Rodgers. The show has been updated a few times, most recently in 2009 with two strong songs added by Lin Manuel Miranda (who also wrote the score for In the Heights): “Delivery” and “A Very Good Day.” The Keegan Theatre smartly uses a condensed one-act version of the show.
The Keegan Theatre’s production (aptly directed by Shirley Sertosky) is excellent, featuring a winning ensemble of 15, many of which play multiple roles. Standouts include Priscilla Cuellar, as both project manager Amanda McKinney, as well as immigrant, Theresa, singing the moving “A Very Good Day,” John Loughney delivering a passionate rendition of “The Mason,” and Sherry Berg, who brings down the house as Delores with the showstopper, “It’s An Art.”
Although the cast features many strong individual performers, the show sounds best in its rousing ensemble numbers including the opening song, “All the Livelong Day” and the poignant “If I Could’ve Been.”
The orchestra led by Musical Director Jake Null, sounds terrific. Leon Wiebers’ costumes effectively capture each of the character’s occupations and allow for striking uniformity in some of the ensemble numbers. Stephanie Freed’s strong lighting helps keep the audience focused on the continuously changing featured characters. Kurt Boehm provides the energetic choreography.
The Keegan Theatre’s Working – A Musical is a heartfelt production with a hard-working talented cast. It offers audiences a great opportunity to see this rarely produced – yet original – and timely piece of musical theatre.