Wednesday July 26th 2017

“WORKING”

Each and every one of us have an identity, and each one of us should feel that in some way we contribute to what makes America special. I think that was Studs Terkel’s purpose when he wrote his book “Working”, a sort of “Chorus Line” for workers instead of dancers- yes, 26 characters, portrayed by six brilliant actors, are brought to life as they tell us “their stories”. While Terkel’s book was amazing and was transformed into a play, it really began to capture the public when it was adapted into a musical  by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso. I had the good fortune of directing a production of “Working” at a Temple in Skokie back in 1995 and fell in love with the music and the characters/people represented in this piece about real people. Now, seeing this brand new version, with some new characters and a few missing ( I truly missed “Lovin Al”, the car parker and the whole grocery bit dealing with unions, but the new McDonalds and the  caregivers scene with immigrants who have left their own families to care for someone else’s truly makes up for those losses).

This is truly a brilliant production, with a beautiful set(designed by Beowulf Boritt) that allows  the audience to watch the actors prepare and  get ready- the actors are people and in their own way they tell their story, just as the added press agent tells his. Aaron Rhyne’s projections and the lighting by Jeff Croiter and Jesse Klug as well as the sound by Josh Horvath and Ray Nardelli and costumes by Mattie Ullrich are all special ingredients that make a show complete and I am the first to praise the tech people for their solid work, but this is a show about people and the six member cast truly is what this show is all about. Directed by Gordon Greenberg with choreography by Josh Rhodes, the six actors work the small stage of the intimate Broadway in Chicago Playhouse ( the old Drury Lane Water Tower) to perfection! From the very start as we hear tapes of the people talking about thier jobs and see photos projected on the wall, we know we are in for something special, and that it is!

The cast is made up of young and old performers, some of whom are Chicago legends already with the great work they have done over the years, a few, newer but getting better known and two almost brand new to the scene, but names that will be around for a long time. Let me start at the very beginning;  young Emjoy Gavino who proves that big things come in small packages with her big voice and her marvelous rendition of James Taylor’s “Millwork”. Gabriel Ruiz ( a young member of Teatro Vista) gets a chance to show his ability to handle variety  as he plays an old stone mason, a young high school drop out working deliveries and a young “hippie-type” that wants some control in his life). Michael Mahler, a musician who also writes music has been seen on many Chicago area stages and is a pleasure to watch on stage. he is one of those actors with great facial expressions and when he does the UPS “delivery” speech ( it used to be the meter reader) one cannot keep from laughter.He also does a brilliant  version of the fire fighter as well as his ” Brother Trucker”- he just keeps getting better! Talk about better- E.Faye Butler is astounding in her characters from her “Just A Housewife” to her prostitute to her show stopping Maggie and her “Cleanin’ women”  number. Barbara Robertson, one of Chicago’s  finest also stops the show with her “Its’ An Art” number about the skill of being a waitress ( her doing the split is hysterical) but she also shines as Rose Hoffman, the school teacher who speaks about the changes in our country, our culture and our school system “Nobody tells Me How”. Filling out this fine cast is  Gene Weygandt who begins the show with “The Livelong Day” asking if somebody will pay him a million dollars to tell the story of his life and work, cause if somebody would, he wouldn’t have to do it no more. Weygandt, who is known for his versatility on our stages also  plays a hedge fund manager, Joe Zutty, a retiree ( “Joe”, is a song that will make you think about the aged and their lives) and then returns to his iron worker role to tell a story about “Fathers and Sons” that is sure to bring a tear to your eye. This leads into a finale that brings all these people together in the fact that we all need “Something To Point To”, something to be proud of and something to be remembered for. This is a powerful ending to a super 110 minutes of entertainment ( no intermission, and I am glad to say, it works better without one)

This is a “must see” for anyone who loves theater and even for those who love life. I would urge you no to bring youngsters as there is some language that you may not want them to hear. “Working” will play at The Broadway In Chicago Playhouse on what is called an open run . I would think as long as tickets sell, “Working” will be working. Tickets range from $67.50-$77.50 , a reasonable price for theater of this extraordinary quality and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, including the playhouse at 175 E. Chestnut ( Water Tower Place), by phone at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

Performance schedule:Tuesday,Wednesday,Thursday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.-Matinees at 2 p.m. Wednesday,Saturday and Sunday.

There are some special talk backs after selected performances to see this schedule visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com

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