By Jacqueline Monahan
Photos by Stephen Thorburn
Studs Terkel’s Working Debuts at Spring Mountain Ranch
Working, the last production of Super Summer Theatre’s 34th season, made its debut on September 10 for the first of three 3-day runs at Spring Mountain Ranch. There will be six more performances of the musical, based on the 1974 book by the late Pulitzer Prize winning author, Studs Terkel.
The play chronicles a day in the life of 26 American workers, using Terkel’s book of interviews for verbatim monologues and lyrics, retaining the spirit of the project and making for a filled stage. The large ensemble cast is energetic and spirited themselves, portraying office workers, laborers, executives, waitresses, and even ladies of the evening. Hey, it’s a living.
The opening number, “All the Livelong Day” features the entire workforce in their respective positions literally going through the motions of working. Someone pushes the invisible keys of an adding machine. Someone is on the phone. All of them are hard at work, and Working tells you their stories in their own words
There are songs of explanation and complaint, pride, sorrow, drudgery and contentment, from a varied representation of American workers; an elderly retired man, “Joe” (Jeff Fleming) mourns the time that’s now so hard to fill, while a young paperboy played by a girl (Faith Read), carries out his duties with the eagerness of one who has all the time in the world. The employed talk and sing their way through the daily grind in an overlapping quilt of activity.
An iron worker confesses that sometimes, way up high, guys will urinate in one of the skyscraper’s columns; a teacher laments the demise of corporal punishment; a grocery checkout girl reminisces about her childhood as a migrant worker; a firefighter talks about the danger that’s part of his job description.
Six songwriters, including Grammy Award winning singer James Taylor and Academy Award winning composer, Stephen Schwartz are credited in the production.
Standout performances include a waitress (Jennifer deAnne King) singing “It’s an Art” about her chosen profession and an ex-copy boy at a newspaper (Rob Works) whose monologue smacks of workplace violence in “A Whole New Generation”.
There’s the haunting “Un Mejor Dia Vendora” (Angela Perales) about checkout girl’s experiences as an immigrant fieldworker, and the weary, heartfelt “Cleaning Woman” (four-time Olympian Martha Watson).
“Been Bit Once Already” is the tale of a UPS delivery man, (Wallace Broadnax) while “Fathers and Sons” reminds us of the reason for all of the occupational strife – our children (Stephen McMillan).
The cast begins and ends in the same way, going through the motions of a job they either love or hate, assembled all together on stage once again for the closing number, “Something to Point To.”
Director Joy Demain (Jade Productions) has assembled an enthusiastic cast who approach their “work” with gusto and sass when called for; other scenes impart a more melancholy atmosphere.
Musical Director Pat Demain’s five-piece band (keyboards, guitar, percussion) makes a big sound from behind the stage, although sound issues need to be worked out for both band and ensemble.
Working would benefit from tighter pacing and more conglomerate professions. “Jobs are Not Big Enough” and “Thank You for Asking” combine office and telephone workers’ issues respectively to give one collective overview of those lines of work instead of each employee individually detailing their day.
Twenty six professions takes quite a lot of time to sit through (the production is two hours long) and the proceedings can get a bit tedious, like being at a party where everyone lines up to tell you what they do. Some stories are more interesting than others. You might be able to excuse yourself at a gathering; here, you’re obliged to politely pay attention and sometimes that feels like work.
Additional Working performances will take place on September 17-19 and 24-26.
About Super Summer Theater ’09:
Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the gate, and can be purchased at the UNLV Box Office, Prestige Travel at Lake Mead and Rampart, or online at unlvtickets.com. Children 5 and younger are free.
Gates open at 6 p.m. Performances run Thursday through Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. Spring Mountain Ranch is located 10 miles west of the Charleston/215 exit.
For further information:
(702) 594-PLAY (7529).