‘Working, A Musical’ works at Timber Lake.
By Sue Langenberg
Show number two at Timber Lake Playhouse “Working, A Musical,” opened last night to praises all around. It is one of those uplifting shows that follow you out of the theatre still humming the last song.
The show is based on Stud Terkel’s book “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do.” The show was adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso with songs by Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead and James Taylor.
Guest director Chuck Smith returns to TLP for his 11th year and comments the summer stock theatre has become a welcoming second home for him. His Chicago experiences are many that include resident director of Goodman Theatre, an Emmy and Jeff Award and several other windy city theatre organizations.
Working alongside Smith is TLP artistic director Jim Beaudry staging musical numbers including rhythmic and clever moves of the factory routines.
There is a saying that, “…when Studs Terkel listens, people talk.” And talk they did during his lengthy radio career on Chicago’s WFMT station. His main focus was years of oral histories of the everyday people, what they did and what they dreamed about. Every story was important to Terkel and best lived in this show as 20 some characters live out their days on the job, whatever it is.
This production is remounted from the original of the ‘70s to pare down to a mere six actors. Performers John Chase, Judy Knudtson, Erica Stephan, Sharriese Hamilton, Dryden Thomas Meints and Andrew Way are thus versatile with quick costume changes and revamped characters as each portrays a different daily grind.
The voices of all six actors are stellar from slick Meints as “Lovin’ Al” the car guy to Way working with his hands as “The Mason.” Knudtson convinces as the 1959 dorky teacher that many remember and is supremely moving in “Just a Housewife.” Stephan excelled in any job she portrayed, notably “I’m Just Movin.’” Powerful and glorious voice of Hamilton took on several moods in “If I Could’ve Been,” “Cleaning Women” and “Un Mejor Dia Vendra” (A better day will come.)
The script is cleanly accessible as it speaks for itself representing the voices from the bottom up, rather than the playwright down. You can almost visualize Terkel with feet across the desk and holding a cigar fascinated about every teacher, mailman, truck driver, iron worker or “Just a Housewife” in the first act.
The segues are equally brilliant as each worker in their own cubicle calculates how many decades until retirement when Chase as a retiree “Joe” appears, slowed and wondering where life went and what to do today. The heart-felt song harkens to a moving piece in musical “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” about the “silver clock that waits for us all.”
Brilliant and inspiring show “Working, A Musical” continues Friday June 22 and runs through Sunday June 30 evening at Timber Lake Playhouse. Tuesday through Saturday evening shows at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. The Mt. Carroll boonies are a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or email@example.com for tickets, group rates and more information. Note area road closures in June that include Timber Lake Road. From Rt. 78, take 40 East to Black Oak Road and turn right. From Rt. 40 West continue to Black Oak Road and turn left.