The late Studs Terkel, Chicago author and radio personality, was a champion of the common man, as evidenced by his book "Working." In it, he interviewed dozens of working people, asking them about their lives, their jobs, their dreams. Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso adapted it into a musical, also called "Working," in 1978, setting the interviews to music by a variety of composers. Now the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego is presenting a revised version that it apparently hopes to send to Broadway.
This production, directed by Gordon Greenberg, is billed as re-imagined by Schwartz and Greenberg with new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Other songs are by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Schwartz, and James Taylor. As the audience arrives, the six-person cast can be seen in dressing rooms behind a scrim on the first two levels of a three-level set connected by diagonal stairs. (The scenic design is by Beowulf Boritt with lighting by Jeff Croiter.) On one side of the top level is the four-person band, led by music director Mark Hartman on keyboards. On the other is presumably stage manager Daniel S. Rosokoff, who gives the initial sound and light cues as the house lights go down and the one-act show begins.
The three men and three women of the cast are known by number, Man #1 and so on, because they create 26 different people, who are named. Some people's stories are told as monologues, some as songs or both. The first person is ironworker Mike Dillard, portrayed by Wayne Duvall, who tells of his pride in knowing that he helped build some mighty skyscrapers. In some ways, he sets the tone for the show since the closing song, "Something to Point To" by Carnelia, talks about the importance of being able to show one's children what his or her work has accomplished.
Other professions heard from during the show range from prostitute Roberta Victor (Danielle Lee Greaves) to school teacher Rose Hoffman (Donna Lynne Champlin) and flight attendant Terry Mason (Marie-France Arcilla). Adam Monley portrays hedge fund manager Rex Winship, whose comments about making money on Wall Street seem particularly timely and ironic. The cast's other man, Nehal Joshi, is seen as such people as Raj, a tech support guy, presumably in India.
With choreography by Josh Rhodes, costumes by Mattie Ullrich, projections by Aaron Rhyne and sound by Tony Smolenski IV, this new version of "Working" pays respectful homage to blue, white and pink collar workers while being thoroughly entertaining, thanks to the terrific cast and the show itself.
This was my first visit to San Diego and the Old Globe, which is in the center of the city's beautiful, historic Balboa Park. The experience was a positive one all the way around.