Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

A Musical

Also see John's review of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

The Caldwell Theatre presents Working in the Countess de Hoernle Theatre in Boca Raton. The musical is based on a best-selling book of interviews with American workers by Studs Terkel entitled "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do," published in 1974. Adapted for stage by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, the show contains lyrics by Schwartz, Micki Grant, Craig Carnelia, James Taylor, Susan Birkenhead, Matt Landers and Graciela Daniele. The original Broadway production opened on May 14, 1978, and received five Tony Award nominations.

In the musical, numerous workers, including a cleaning woman, a corporate executive, a schoolteacher, a housewife, a fireman, a waitress, a mason, a construction worker and a flight attendant, sing and talk about their jobs. They examine the everyday routine of their jobs, as well as their hopes and aspirations. As the construction worker says, they yearn to leave behind something they can point to as what they have done, what they have made, so that they, and others, can look at it with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

This production of Working is an updated version of the show, including call-center service representatives, cell phones, and other current details. The show has its peaks and valleys. Some numbers are touching, funny and/or inspiring, while others are merely unmemorable. Some of the songs have not stood the test of time as well as others. At the Caldwell Theatre, the choreography is at times over wrought. There seems to be movement without purpose but for the sake of movement. Thankfully, the cast sings the music well, and a live three-piece band plays the score admirably.

The hands-down stand-out number of this production is "It's An Art" as performed by Laura Hodos. It is a great comedic piece packed with personality, and Hodos really owns it. The bulk of the men's moments seem to fall on handsome and brawny Jim Ballard. He handles the dialogue moments better than some of the singing moments, as his rendition of the beautifully written "Fathers & Sons" falls a bit short of the mark. Melissa Minyard has one of the other memorable moments in her touchingly understated "Just A Housewife." Kareema Khouri shows off her huge voice in a sassy version of "Cleanin' Women." While Barry J. Tarallo shines vocally (and on guitar) in the song "Joe," it is a shame we don't have more opportunities to hear his youthful, lyric Irish tenor sound. Though Michael Focas clearly has a good voice, he seems short changed by not being given his own meaty song or character defining moment. The fact that this musical has no real plot, but is rather a collection of musical stories, or a themed revue, may make it not for everyone—especially when the theme is so deceptively simple. Those who are fans of the original version will enjoy this production as one would enjoy a visit with an old friend.

While composer Schwartz may be most identified with his latest Broadway success, Wicked, he also wrote the music and lyrics for Godspell, Pippin, The Baker's Wife, Working, The Magic Show and Children Of Eden. He went on to write the lyrics to Charles Strouse's music for Rags, and later collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, for which he received two Academy Awards and a Grammy. He also provided songs for DreamWorks' first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt, for which he won another Academy Award for the song "When You Believe."

Louis "Studs" Terkel was an American author, historian, actor and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for "The Good War," and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago. Terkel was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was a recipient of the George Polk Career Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize's first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. He passed away in 2008 as the age of 96.

This production of Working - A Musical will be appearing through April 1, 2012, at the Caldwell Theatre. The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The Caldwell Theatre Company is designated by the State of Florida as a Cultural Institution and receives funding from the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, the Florida Arts Council and the Division of Cultural Affairs. The Caldwell Theatre Company is located in the Count De Hoernle Theatre at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, Florida. Performance times are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For information and/or tickets you may contact them by phone at 561-241-7432 or online at

Jim Ballard*
Michael Focas*
Laura Hodos*
Kareema Khouri*
Melissa Minyard*
Barry J. Tarallo*

Director: Clive Cholerton
Music Director: Caryl Ginsburg Fantel
Choreography: Dave Campbell
Scenic Design: Tim Bennett
Lighting Design: Joseph P. Oshry
Sound Design: Thomas M. Shorrock
Costume Design: Linda C. Shorrock
Stage Manager: Robert Herrle*

*Indicates member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Photo: Tim Bennett

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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