Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Working"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"Working"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The last show of the Players 100th season is Stephen Schwartz's "Working". Schwartz's most recent Broadway show is "Wicked". Written in 1978 and nominated for six Tony Awards, the show is based on the book of the same name by Studs Terkel, it chronicles a day in the life of twenty-six average American workers. Characters include an ironworker, a waitress, a stone mason, a trucker, a housewife, a UPS delivery man, a teacher, a millworker, a supermarket checker and a retiree. All of their monologues, in which they describe their hopes and aspirations, are true stories derived from interviews with actual workers. While there is neither a unified plot nor a narrative thread carrying the action forward, each scene makes a smooth transition into the next with each character's speech related in content to what precedes and follow it. "Working" explores the American workday from the Monday morning blues to the second shift blahs using the original words of some uncommon common men and women. Director Joan Dillenback and musical director Ron Procopio choose the best people for each of these roles. They mold the show together perfectly with choreography by Diana Luchka-Ricci.

Joan starts the show off with "Look For the Union Label". Joan says in her director's notes that the main thing is the respect these people have for themselves and the pride they take in their jobs. The show is billed as a poignant often humorous, tribute to the average workingman and woman. The show is meant to celebrate the lives of unsung heroes, from teachers to truckers to cleaning women and ironworkers. Joan's staging contains the energy and production values that Players audiences have come to expect from this 100 year old Theatre Club. Ron not only taught the beautiful intricate harmonies to his cast but also plays keyboards with his small combo of his son, Buddy on percussion and Frank DiFusco on guitar The two story set is by Michael Girard and consists of letter blocks which spell out the word Working with stairs behind them. The cast climbs up and down these blocks during their monologues and 17 musical numbers These 26 roles are played by 9 talented performers, Dennis L. Bouchard, Kathy Donahue, Samantha Wellins Gaus, Dan Kirby, Patricia Luca, David Adams Murphy, Krysten Oates, Mel Shelly and Sue Staniunas.

Since there are numerous characters in the show I will list a few of the roles they play. "All the Livelong Day" based on Walt Whitman's poetry opens the show with its powerful rendition. Dennis is comical at first as an ironworker talking about his toolbelt but it is the eleventh hour number that brings tears to your eyes as he remembers his father in "Fathers and Sons" by Stephen Schwartz with the father played by Mel. Another sentimental number is sung by pretty blonde, Krysten called "Just a Housewife" where she sings about being just like her mother. Kathy Donahue who has a powerful soprano voice sings about being a teacher for 40 years and since things have changed so much through the years "Nobody Tells Me How". She also has a comical turn as a Socialite. Pretty dark haired Samantha sings "I'm Just Movin', an energetic song about a checker at the market.( I appeared with her sister, Ricca in "Oliver" back in 1990 at The Players.) She also plays a project manager, a hooker and a boy who's father was arrested for insider trading. A rousing "Cleanin' Woman" is where Sue belts out a bluesy pop number while mopping the stage while vowing her daughter won't follow in her footsteps. She uses a wonderful Irish brogue in the monologue surrounding the song. Sue has a funny turn as a telephone operator. David injects much needed humor as a twisted delivery man who enjoys tormenting dogs and mapping out sunbathing addressees and gives a playful turn as a suave parking attendant in "Lovin Al". "If I Could Have Been", a poignant ballad by Micki Grant closes Act 1 with a sensational rendition by the cast in incredible harmony. In "Brother Trucker", a hearty James Taylor contribution, David and Dan sing their praises to the open road. "It's An Art", a powerful song about a hard working waitress is sung beautifully by Patricia who does a monologue as a millworker. While Krysten sings "Millwork" by James Taylor and later in the show does a funny bit where she plays a hot headed copyboy who wants to bash the editor's head in with a baseball bat but proclaims to be a pacifist.Mel achieves a moment of poignancy as Joe, a retiree struggling to fill the hours and rediscover his sense of purpose in life in the song "Joe" by Craig Carnelia. Dan Kirby sings the touching Mason song about Mel the bricklayer who takes pride in his work and Un Mejor Dia Vendra which in translation means a better day will come when God, the poor gives rest which is sung by a migrant worker who picks lettuce in the fields, singing about the hardships of his family. Dennis and Mel sing beautiful harmony in the background of this number. The show closes with a rousing "Something to Point To" sung by the entire cast. Hard working stage manager Lydia Matteson keeps things running smoothly all night long. So for a wonderful evening of theatre with talented performers, be sure to catch "Working" at the Players. To join this theatre club just give Lydia a call.

"Working" (8 - 17 May
THE PLAYERS
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 273-0590

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