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NY1 Theater Review: "Working"

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A new and revised version of "Working," the musical based on the 1974 book by Studs Turkel, has just opened off-Broadway. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

The subject of work, as in "employment", is certainly timely today, and hats off to the Prospect Theater Company for reviving the delightful musical review entitled "Working" inspired by the 1974 book by Studs Terkel.

The stage adaptation by Stephen Schwartz had a brief run on Broadway in 1978. Happily, it's since been revised and updated. Smaller now, and more intimate, this tuneful gem seems to work better than ever.

On Broadway, there were 17 actors playing an assortment of real-life working people depicted in Terkel’s book. In its present form, six marvelous actors portray 25 characters. And in addition to the original music from the likes of James Taylor, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead and Schwartz, there are two terrific new numbers by Lin-Manuel Miranda. All of the songs are little revelations as melodic as they are insightful. And they're delivered to near perfection.

The concept featuring "the extraordinary dreams of ordinary people," as Terkel describes it, could so easily turn cloyingly sweet. But Schwartz's revisions with Nina Faso under Gordon Greenberg's imaginatively resourceful direction, hit all the right notes on the tiny off-Broadway stage.

It takes a lot of talent to pull off such ingenuity and the six performers here make it all seem so effortless. As threads of one life story wrap up, another is introduced to complete the tale. And it goes on and on seamlessly for 95 captivating minutes. Donna Lynne Champlin, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Marie-France Arcilla, Joe Cassidy, Nehal Joshi and Kenita R. Miller are masterfully versatile. Morphing from hard hat to white collar to blue blood, they manage to evoke entire lives in voice, body and spirit.

The production deserves a larger audience but I fear what a move would do. "Working" is a job very well done.

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