Review: Working (Broadway in Chicago)

  
  

Now extended through June 5th!

        

Talented Chicago cast gets the job done!

  
  

Michael Mahler, E. Faye Butler, Gabriel Ruiz, Emjoy Gavino, Gene Weygandt, Barbara Robertson in Broadway in Chicago's 'Working'

  
Broadway in Chicago presents
  
Working
   
From the book by Studs Terkel
Adapted by
Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso
Directed by
Gordon Greenburg
at
Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut (map)
through June 5  |   tickets: $67-$77   |   more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh 

‘Everybody should have something to point to!’ At the end of a career, job, or just day, there is satisfaction in pointing to something well-constructed… building, memo, burger… to say ‘I did that!‘ Steel beam to corner office to cubicle, one building houses millions of work tales. Broadway in Chicago presents Working a musical. In 1974, Pulitzer Prize- winning author Studs Terkel published a collection of interviews in his Michael Mahler - Chicago 'Working'book entitled “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.” In 1977, Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso adapted the book into a musical about the working class. In the current production, both skilled director Gordon Greenburg, and additional songs, have been added to the resume. ‘Working 2.0 brings timeless employees’ woes into a new age. Working is the ordinary dreams of ordinary people sung by an extraordinary Chicago cast!

The show is cued with a behind-the-curtain glimpse at staged theatre. An unseen person calls out directions in a countdown to the start. A bi-level backdrop showcases four dressing rooms where actors-playing-actors-playing-workers are busy prepping. The intriguing set by Beowulf Boritt has a strong industrial framework influence. The beams work double-time to establish a construction feel as an ironworker kicks-off the interview series. Later, the metal structure is the screen for visual projections by Aaron Rhyne. Designer Rhyne adds magnificent depth to the stories with authentic location and people imagery. Studs Terkel haunts the stage from beginning to end. In the opening scene, his voice is heard as several reel to reel recorders play his historic interviews tapes. At the finale, projections of the working people series ends with his facial profile. In between the Studs, a hard-working ensemble of six dress and undress…sometimes right on stage… to tell 26 different stories in 100 minutes.

The marathon of memories is well-paced, with each character’s story transitioning into another’s. Sometimes, it’s natural… construction guy to executive to assistant. Sometimes, it’s just a little forced… retired to fireman or factory worker to mason or trucker to call center tech. Regardless, the stitching together adds to a rhythmic flow for the always-dynamic and ever-changing cast. There are lots of moments to point to with this talented 6 doing 26 parts, but here are some favorites: E. Faye Butler transforms effortlessly from humble housewife to vivacious hooker to amusing cleaning lady. Totally diva-licious, Butler belts out songs like an entire gospel choir squeezed into one uniform. Gabriel Ruiz - Chicago 'Working'Emjoy Gavino goes from sassy flight attendant to poignant millworker with an unforgettable solo. Despite a crackling microphone, Barbara Robertson is delightful and slightly disturbing as an old-school teacher. Then, as an amicable and career content waitress, Robertson serves up an impressive singing number complete with a side of splits. Gabriel Ruiz delivers burgers with playful energy, then later sings sweetly as a caregiver doing a job nobody wants. Michael Mahler plays it ruggedly funny as seasoned trucker then naively hilarious as a newbie student. Gene Weygandt bookends the show as the cocky ironworker bragging about heights and confessing his shortcomings in a powerfully nostalgic ‘Fathers and Sons.’

WORKING: a musical employs a talented Chicago cast! No matter what your current job status, this hard-working cast will entertainingly sing to you a familiar tune. It’s realistic, relatable, regularity life put to music. I’m pointing at Working as an enjoyable after-work happy hour.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  
Barbara Robertson - Chicago 'Working' Gene Weygandt - Chicago 'Working' E. Faye Bulter - Chicago 'Working'
Gabriel Ruiz - Chicago 'Working' Emjoy Gavino - Chicago 'Working' Michael Mahler - Chicago 'Working'

Working continues through June 5th, with performances Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday, Sundays at 7:30pm, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm, and Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm.  The Broadway Playhouse is located on 175 E. Chestnut in downtown Chicago (behind Watertower Place). Ticket prices are $67 to $77, and can be purchased online HERE. Running Time: 100 minutes with no intermission.

Extra Credit:

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Review: THIS TRAIN (16th Street Theater at Steppenwolf)

An expressive train ride full of colorful humanity

 

this-train

   
16th Street Theater presents
  
THIS TRAIN
   
Written and performed by Tony Fitzpatrick
Directed by
Ann Filmer
at Steppenwolf’s
Merle Reskin Garage Theatre (map)
through August 1st  |  tickets: $22  |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Imagine riding the Red Line with Michael Moore, John Goodman and Mother Theresa to the Morse Stop to decipher the graffiti, enjoy the art and give money to the poor while a street musician serenaded. 16th Street Theater presents THIS TRAIN at Steppenwolf’s Merle Reskin Garage Theatre. It’s a multi-media experience written and performed by artist, poet, actor Tony Fitzpatrick. The show is a collection of this-train3 expression; projected images of art accompanied by sung verse intermingled with real life tales of vagabonds through history and on Damen Avenue. This decoupage of the plight of the hobo uses political rants and amusing side stories to get at the core illustration: ‘the greatest crime in this country is to be poor.’ With the current economic climate, THIS TRAIN is a timely ride connecting beyond people’s stations in life.

THIS TRAIN is Tony Fitzpatrick’s one hobo show. A musician trio and a Paul Shaffer-look-a-like sidekick are present but they are more props in ‘Tony’s World.’ Fitzpatrick shares personal stories of his journey as an artistic drifter. Channeling a new age hobo confidence, he likes to be paid first and in cash. Mimicking his Ukraine neighbor, Studs Terkel, or a plethora of homeless visitors to his studio, Fitzpatrick is a masterful storyteller creating visuals from his word choices. What keeps the show from being a vanity showcase is Fitzpatrick’s vulnerability, compassion and genuine fondness for the poor. He knows the impoverished by name. ‘I’m two paychecks away from being Tony and one drink away from being Wayne.’ Along with his stories, the audience gets glimpses of his art. Pictures of his art are projected with music accompaniment and Fitzpatrick’s recorded poetry. The art is folksy abstract with the fusion graphics of skeletons, words and the hobo alphabet. Fitzpatrick’s proclamations of ‘language comes from art’ and ‘art is a labor of desire’ are represented in this auto-biographical ‘wonder’ choice where he fully loves and participates.

 

ThisTrain_SallyandJohn  ThisTrainEnsemble
this-train5 this-train2

Under the direction of Ann Filmer, ‘voiceover Tony’ and ‘real life Tony’ segments transition without a hitch. The show has an unrehearsed, authentic, stopover in ‘Tony’s World’ feel. The style seems gritty and spontaneous to match the content. For the projection segments, Kristin Reeves has created a video that uses movement, people, paintings and the written word as a vehicle synced perfectly with a pre-recorded Fitzpatrick narration or Kat Eggleston’s soulful singing. The effect is breaking up the commute watching YouTube videos on an I-pod.

Public transportation is not for everyone. But for those who appreciate the colorful humanity that makes any transit ride more entertaining, Fitzpatrick drives THIS TRAIN up close and personal. Catch THIS TRAIN off the Red Line Clybourn stop or hop the Blue Line to Big Cat Press, 2124 N. Damen, for daily encore presentations.

   
    
Rating: ★★★
   
  

Running Time: 100 minutes included a fifteen minute intermission

3 WORDS: Getting on the Brown Line, James describes the show with “Next Stop: Chicago.”

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Chicago shows currently Jeff-Recommended

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Equity Wing:
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Mistakes Were Made
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Studs Terkel’s Not Working
The Second City e.t.c.

The Fantasticks
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The History Boys
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The Light in the Piazza
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Non-Equity Wing:
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Graceland
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POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical
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