By Kenneth Jones
16 May 2008
Lin Manuel-Miranda talk to Robert Viagas about one of the new songs he wrote for Working.
Previews began May 14 for the Asolo staging of the Broadway revue inspired by Studs Terkel's famous oral-history book about working folk. Performances play to June 8.
The Tony Award-nominated Working, with a book by Schwartz, who adapted Terkel's non-fiction tome, had songs by a bevy of writers: Schwartz, Susan Birkenhead, Mary Rodgers, Craig Carnelia, James Taylor and Micki Grant. Schwartz and Miranda both penned new material for the show.
The Florida cast includes Liz McCartney (Broadway's Taboo, Mamma Mia!) and Darrin Baker (Broadway's Tarzan, Wonderful Town), Marie-France Arcilla, Colin Donnell, Danielle Lee Greaves and Nehal Joshi.
Working originally had its start at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and — despite its short Broadway run (one month) — has been a cult hit for years, enjoying a wide life in regional theatres.
The new production also reveals the mechanics of the theatre production — exposing the stage manager and crew, for example.
Greenberg said in a statement, "Stephen and I have been talking about doing a pared down production of Working for the past eight years… Using only six transformative actors, the idea was to expose the bones of the production itself, allowing the audience a glimpse into the actors', stage manager's and crew's processes. With Lin-Manuel creating additional material and Asolo Rep to launch the new production, we've found the ideal circumstances to finally realize this vision."
Tony Award nominee and Academy Award winner Schwartz is the composer-lyricist known for Pippin, The Baker's Wife, Wicked and the animated "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and more.
Miranda penned music and lyrics for Broadway's current In the Heights, in which he stars as one of the Latino residents of the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. He conceived the musical, as well. It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Performances play the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Asolo Rep's producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards said in an earlier statement, "We are proud and honored to bring together such an award-winning group of artists to breathe new creative life into such a beloved work. The creative team is brilliant. They are all at the top of their game and extremely talented. This new version of Working is fresh and dynamic; it pulses with the energy and rhythm of today."
Asolo Rep's production will be directed by Greenberg (Paper Mill and Goodspeed's Pirates and Happy Days, Paper Mill's The Baker's Wife) and choreographed by Joshua Rhodes; with music direction by Mark Hartman, scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Mattie Ullrich, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, and projection design by Aaron Rhyne & Beowulf Boritt.
Here's how Asolo bills Working: "Do you love your job? Or can you not wait to punch out at the end of the day? Are you ecstatic to go to work every morning? Or do you prefer the ease of retirement? Working explores the gamut of people's emotions about their jobs. This well-loved musical based on the writings of Studs Terkel remains a witty and timely commentary on how work defines the worker's self-worth and cultural legacy. This inventive re-imagining of a powerful and emotional audience favorite features characters from all walks of life ranging from trucker to housewife, waitress to corporate executive, fireman to schoolteacher, and more. With such a wide cross-section of characters, you’ll surely feel that at least one of them is singing your song."
In 1978, Working, directed by Schwartz, was nominated for Tony Award in the following categories: Best Book of a Musical (Schwartz), Best Original Score (lyrics by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor, music by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers, Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor),Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Steven Boockvor and Rex Everhart), Best Scenic Design (David Mitchell) and Best Lighting Design (Ken Billington).
Songs from the musical have been heard in concerts and cabarets, and on recordings. An original cast album preserves the score. A TV version of Working was also seen.
Songs from the original version of the musical include "All the Livelong Day (I Hear America Singing)," "Lovin' Al," "Just a Housewife," "The Mason," "Neat to be a Newsboy," "Nobody Tells Me How," "Millwork," "Joe," "It's an Art," "Cleanin' Women," "Something to Point To," "Un Mejor Dia Vendra," "Brother Tucker," "Fathers and Sons" and "If I Could've Been."
For more information, visit www.asolo.org or call (800) 361-8388.
Studs Terkel's book is called "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do."
The respected resident Asolo Rep premiered the Broadway-bound musical A Tale of Two Cities in fall 2007. It opens on Broadway this summer.