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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
WORKING: A MUSICAL
at New York City Center

ORDINARY PEOPLE
By JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ

  Ph: Joan Marcus

The musical is called Working for a reason, and the New York City Center Encores! Off-Center take on it running through June 29 wastes no time spotlighting people getting busy at their jobs – as in, before the concert-style production even begins. A few minutes before show time, we hear the voice of a stage manager who asks, “Lights, hi, how are you this evening? Great.”
 
This late 1970s musical group portrait of ordinary people, drawn from a Studs Terkel book, never rises to greatness. It is sincere and modestly entertaining – no more, no less. But making us privy to a typically silent conversation in a show about workers who can fly under the radar marks a savvy move by director Anne Kauffman, whose production also weaves City Center history and employees’ stories into the show’s mix of factory drones, teachers, masons, housewives, firemen, caretakers, truckers, receptionists and others. Accompanied by six musicians and four ensemble members, Andrea Burns, Mateo Ferro, David Garrison, Helen Hunt, Christopher Jackson, Javier Munoz and Tracie Thoms deftly breathe life into all of those characters.
 
Originally adapted by Nina Faso and Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote some of the songs, Working has gone through various tweaks over the years. It now includes a couple of songs by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, including a tasty one about a fast-food delivery boy. On the other hand, a Craig Carnelia song about being “just a housewife” jars and feels dated. But a James Taylor tune about the life of a millworker strikes a rich chord, just as it did in a 2012 Off-Broadway run of the show, and keeps working overtime.

 


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