Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 15, 2017

Working: A Musical

Opera House Players, Broadbrook, CT
through September 24, 2017
by Michael J. Moran

In his “Director’s Perspective” on the OHP’s powerhouse production of “Working,” John Pike recalls how moved he was when, as a college student in 1978, he saw the short-lived (three weeks) original Broadway version. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and five other composers and lyricists, the score of this “revusical” can sound a bit diffuse, but the 16 singing actors in Pike’s engaging cast invest it with unifying energy and commitment. While they perform most often as large and small ensembles, many are also featured as soloists in one or two numbers.

Angela Dias is a forceful schoolteacher in the Mary Rodgers/Susan Birkenhead song “Nobody Tells Me How.” “It’s an Art” becomes a star turn for Erica Romeo’s theatrical waitress. Eleven-year-old Sammi Choquette nearly steals the show in “Neat To Be a Newsgirl.” Dennis J. Scott and Brian Rucci are heartrending in the poignant “Fathers and Sons.” And the entire company are nervous wrecks in James Taylor’s manic “Traffic Jam.”

The score is periodically updated to reflect the evolving workplace, and invites new contributions from colleagues. One of two recent additions by Lin-Manuel Miranda is “A Very Good Day,” touchingly rendered by Andrew D. Secker as an adult caretaker and Elizabeth Drevits Tomaszewski as a nanny. 

In spoken interludes between musical numbers, Melody Gravante-Gunnells is an exuberant dog walker (with a four-pronged leash and a chorus of grating yaps from sound designer Ron Schallack evoking the unseen canines), band guitarist Matt Patton wryly laments the hand-to-mouth lifestyle of a freelance musician, and Dias' world-weary publicist looks and sounds uncannily like Joan Rivers.

Versatile set design by Francisco Aguas enables quick and smooth transitions among a wide variety of settings. Resourceful choreography by Anna Marie Russell enlivens many scenes, especially the hilariously staged Micki Grant song “Cleanin’ Women."