Sunday, 18 July 2010

Working – A Musical ***

Working - A Musical
 Adapted from Studs Terkel by Stephen Schwartz & Nina Faso, songs by James Taylor, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers & Susan Birkenhead

Chapel of Chapel, Prahran, Melbourne, July 18 to 31, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

If you thought that your working life was too boring to be art, think again. The dramatis personae is Working include: iron worker, parking attendant, waitress, cleaners, receptionists, truck driver, fireman, factory worker, stonemason, checkout chick, housewife, retiree, and a teacher who is the only middle-class professional.

Group and solo songs are interwoven with monologues about work that are adapted from Studs Terkel’s 1974 oral history interviews with American workers. The workers grab our attention with rousing chorus numbers including Hey, Somebody, Traffic Jam, and the finale, Something to Point To. A six-piece, on-stage band, lad by Daniel Heskett, gives a fairly tight performance, although the sound mix was a little loose.

Most of the songs are celebrations of the workers’ pride in their jobs and their determination to overcome challenges despite some suffering despair. This production, directed by Dione Joseph, is sponsored by Beyond Blue and incorporates projected information about helping colleagues with depression. These notes are informative although they sometimes distract from the characters or distort their message.

The structure of the show is a little unbalanced with more monologues than songs. The acting ability of some of the cast is limited (most come from amateur musicals) but the songs carry the show.

There are a few stand-out performances. Christian Cavallo has a versatile voice and compelling presence, playing three hilarious, detailed characters. He belts out a cool blues in Lovin’ Al as the parking attendant, is poignant as Roberto, singing Un Mejor Dia Vendra (A Better Day Will Come), and is funny and scary as the psychopathic copy-boy.

Rachel Collins is a sassy performer with a big voice singing I’m Just Movin’ as checkout chick, Babe, and is moving as Grace, the down-trodden, suitcase maker. Todd Morgan is engaging as both the cheeky mailman and a bratty, ambitious school-leaver, while David Barclay has a rock band vocal quality and matching looks.

Some of the characters break your heart but most challenge us to see their work as valuable and joyful. This is a show with heart that supports an important charity.

By Kate Herbert

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