Theater Review: 'Working' -- 3.5 stars
In between his 1970s hits "Godspell" and "Pippin" and subsequent return to popularity with "Wicked," songwriter Stephen Schwartz experienced a painful three-decade streak of consecutive flops including "Working," "The Baker's Wife," "Rags" and "Children of Eden."
Still, these musicals have been very popular with amateur and regional theater companies. That's especially true of "Working," which is now receiving a revised and updated Off-Broadway revival that showcases its qualities.
Based directly on "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do," Studs Terkel's 1974 collection of interviews, the revue explores a cross-section of employees from different socioeconomic paths and backgrounds through a mix of songs and confessional monologues.
During the course of 90 minutes, six cast members take on roles ranging from grade school teacher to UPS guy to prostitute and so on. The tone of these character portraits tends to be either firmly melancholy or upbeat.
Director Gordon Greenberg tries to inject some self-conscious, Brechtian theatricality, with stagehands appearing in plain view of the audience. But this unnecessary choice aside, this is a very engaging and well-cast revival that combines most of the original material with very fitting updates.
While it's hard to pick and choose among the cast, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Donna Lynn Champlin are especially terrific.
If you go: "Working" plays at 59E59 through Dec. 30. 59 E. 59th St., 212-279-4200, 59e59.org.