Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Working
A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's review of Tiny Beautiful Things and Zander's review of Always...Patsy Cline


Photo: (L-R): Zuri Washington, Monica Ramirez,
and Laura Woyasz

Photo by Jeff Butchen
A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut is currently presenting an altogether superb production of the musical Working. As adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso from Studs Terkel's book, Working is composed of scenes and songs that illustrate the various types of work that people do. The musical was produced on Broadway in 1978 and was not a success, only managing an abbreviated run of about one month. However, there has been continual work on the show since then, and Schwartz himself has had some input on the production at ACT of Connecticut.

All this work has paid off handsomely. The show practically glows with vitality and energy. The biggest hero is director Daniel C. Levine, who keeps the musical in constant motion, and has added some extremely effective video projections (by Caite Hevner) that enrich the show tremendously. The six-member cast is absolutely topnotch, effortlessly playing multiple characters. While a show like this, with its series of scenes showing people working at different jobs, might be in danger of becoming monotonous, this production is consistently nimble and entertaining and, ultimately, proves to be much more than just the sum of its parts. The list of songwriters who have contributed material to Working is quite impressive: Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, James Taylor, Stephen Schwartz, and the Lin-Manuel Miranda.

On a versatile set designed by Jack Mehler, who also contributes the awesome lighting design, Working runs a smooth eighty minutes (with no intermission) and manages to absorb the virtues of each number and scene in the show, with the ending being a collective knockout.

In addition to the work done by director Levine, choreographer Chip Abbott also does a great job of keeping Working always on the move. It also helps that the cast is uniformly extraordinary. Each performer plays a variety of different characters and, with the help of the superb costume designer Brenda Phelps, every moment in the show seems seamless, even though the cast is constantly making costume changes. Even better, each performer gets individual moments to shine.

In a cast of equals, Laura Woyasz manages to stand out just a bit, perhaps because she is given probably the best number in the show, "It's an Art," concerning the job of a waitress. Woyasz makes quite an impression, delightfully singing and dancing through the song. Monica Ramirez does extremely well performing "Millwork," and Brad Greer is great singing "Brother Trucker." Cooper Grodin is just about perfect on "Joe," about a man who has retired, and Andre Jordan is effective singing both "Delivery" and "A Very Good Day" (opposite the lovely Zuri Washington, who also scores highly singing the touching, "Just a Housewife.")

Hevner's video clips, with a strong assist from John Salutz's sound design, enhances every moment of the show. What's more, the off-stage orchestra sounds fabulous, led by the masterful music director Dan Pardo, and, incredibly, even the individual songs written by so many different composers form a unified whole. Everything comes together beautifully in A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut's production of Working, which is quite an accomplishment.

Working, through March 10, 2019, at A Contemporary Theatre of Connecticut, 36 Old Quarry Road, Ridgefield CT . For tickets, please visit www.actofct.org or call the box office at 475-215-5433.


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