AISLE SAY San Francisco


Songs by Stephen Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant,
Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead and James Taylor
Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso
from the book by Studs Terkel
Directed by Linda Piccone
Presented by & at Hillbarn Theatre
1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA / (650) 349-6411

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Studs Terkel celebrated average Americans in his 1974 book, "Working," in which people in all lines of work talked about their jobs, their lives, their dreams. Composer Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso adapted it as a musical that opened in 1978 and that was revised in 1999. Hillbarn Theatre salutes those people in a noteworthy production.

The 20-member ensemble cast is a mix of ethnicities and ages ranging from young adult to seniors. All of them have their individual moments in the spotlight as they portray various workers in dialogue and song. (The songs are by Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead and James Taylor.) All of them also appear in the ensemble.

What comes through in almost every character is an essential dignity and pride in doing a job well, whether it's the worker parking cars (played by Joey Montes), balancing on steel girders (Troy Johnson), waitressing (Lyndsay Faye) or checking groceries (Julie Ponsford). Ironically, the worker who comes out the worst is the corporate executive (Richard Ames), who seems blithely unaware of the real meaning of ethics. Along those same lines, the high-class hooker (Lyndsay Faye) and the political fundraiser (Christina Kramlich) seem to have much in common.

Musical director Mark Hanson has the cast singing well in ensemble. Individually, some of the best singing comes from Michelle Jones as a housewife and Teleza K. Newkirk as a third-generation cleaning woman who's determined her daughter won't follow in her job footsteps.

Director Linda Piccone also has melded the cast well, using the multilevel set (by Ron Gasparinetti, complemented by Darren Hochstedler's lighting) effectively and pacing the action well. Shannon Stowe's choreography adds to the enjoyment, as do Jacqui Delgado's excellent costumes and Ron Ho's sound.

Even though Hillbarn is not an Equity company, it has been in business as a community theater for more than 60 years. Productions like "Working" should help to keep it in business.

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