Creative Cauldron presents Working, from the book by Studs Terkel and adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, with songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, and James Taylor. Matt Conner directs this production, which is based on Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with American workers. Something that makes this show particularly special is the fact that it has been updated and revised into an optional “localized” format (originally conceived by Daniel C. Levine, artistic director ACT of CT), which means that the communities who choose to produce it can truly make it their own. Creative Cauldron has done just that, showcasing testimonies from all over Falls Church, from local restaurant managers to its own mayor, Letti Hardy.
Paige Rammelkamp directs a live orchestra offstage, which is impressive given the intimate space of the black box theater. To maximize the space’s potential and give the actors plenty of room for their choreography, set designer Margie Jervis (who also does costumes and props) relies heavily on projections designed by James Morrison. The projections are backdrops familiar to the average working citizen, ranging from restaurant menus and construction sites to a teacher’s blackboard, and lighting designer Lynn Joslin uses various effects to lend emotion and depth to the musical numbers. While the overall technical elements are professional and impressive, the heart of the show is in the performances and vocals of the ensemble.
The cast members all take on a number of roles that cover a myriad of professions, from a pizza delivery boy to a hedge fund manager. There are many notable numbers in this show, and they all stand out for different reasons. Stefan Sittig’s choreography was most memorable for me in Sally Imbriano’s number “Millwork,” which incorporates the monotonous, repetitive motions that become second nature to millions of people who work in factories. Erin Granfield does a great job with “Nobody Tells Me How,” where she portrays Rose, an experienced school teacher who has become disenchanted with the way the profession has evolved over the years. With new teaching strategies, resources, and rules being forced upon her, she feels defeated, hopeless, and exhausted. A sense of being stressed and overwhelmed is a large theme in this show. It’s a familiar thread that unfortunately connects the vast majority of working people and a steady, heavy undertone of the show.
There are lively numbers that help pick up the mood, though: Tony Lemus gives a happy-go-lucky performance in “Delivery,” and Molly Rumberger is hilarious in “It’s an Art,” where she portrays Delores, the stereotypical waitress-who-is-really-an-actress who uses her serving job as her stage…literally. Chelsea Majors’ song “Cleanin’ Women” is inspiring and uplifting, but in my opinion, the number that stands out the most is Oscar Salvador’s turn as “Joe,” a retiree who reminisces about his youth. This song easily received the most emotional response from the audience, which only deepened as it transitioned into the perspective of his caregiver in “A Very Good Day.” As a professional caregiver myself, this number resonated with me the most. The ensemble works very well together and shows a lot of vocal talent!
There isn’t an ongoing plot to focus on. The show is more of a study of the American workforce in general, focusing on the “under the radar” jobs that most of us take for granted daily. It is made even more interesting because this show is truly unique. The focus is our own Falls Church — after this run, it cannot be recreated. The organization of Creative Cauldron itself finds many ways to shine in this show, my favorite being how they feature their very own Learning Theater students in the interviews.
Working is a good show to catch with a group of friends. The post-show topics for conversation are endless — we all work in one way or another (if we’re lucky), and you may be surprised and intrigued by how different aspects of the performances and testimonies resonate with everyone, and what you can learn about each other as a result.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, without an intermission.
Working plays through March 3, 2024, at Creative Cauldron – 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA. For tickets (Tier One: $50, Tier Two: $40, Students: $25, Live Stream: $15), call (703) 436-9948 or purchase them online.
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm
Live Stream Performance Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 pm
The program for Working can be viewed here.
COVID Safety: Creative Cauldron is a mask-optional environment. Creative Cauldron’s COVID-19 Theater Protocol is available online.