The Dayton Playhouse delivers an admirable, often touching production of Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso’s 1978 musical “Working,” based on Studs Terkel’s 1974 book “Working: People Talk About What They Do and How They Feel About What They Do.”
Nearly 30 wide-ranging occupations from a publicist and project manager to a community organizer and fundraiser are the lifeblood of this meaningful, intermissionless outing insightfully conceived from a series of interviews. The allure of the material, including additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg, rests in its endearing simplicity reminding us that every worker contributes to the productivity of our society. Some jobs may seem trivial or underhanded, but all of them undeniably serve a purpose. The dialogue, flowing with smooth transitions by director Jim Lockwood, is peppered with personality and depth by an assortment of terrific songwriters including Schwartz, Craig Carnelia, Mary Rodgers, Micki Grant and James Taylor. The Playhouse uses the revised 2011 version, which particularly trims the cast to six and incorporates new professions (including a Verizon tech support and fast food delivery employee) and two songs from Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”). Interestingly, the revised script also effectively remembers the unemployed.
A true ensemble showcase, “Working” features enjoyable, entertaining portrayals from a vocally sufficient cast. Matt Poliachik incites laughs and groans as a privileged student who seemingly has his life all planned out. He also offers a sincerely plaintive rendition of Carnelia’s wonderful Billy Joel-esque tune “The Mason.” Matthew Clifton is equally humorous as the aforementioned fast food worker and a crazed ex-newsroom assistant. Lynn Kesson, sweet and grounded, particularly joins Clifton for the impactful duet “A Very Good Day,” which focuses on the joys and concerns of an elder care worker and a nanny. Suzanne Clabaugh gives credence to her earthy assignments as a prostitute and cleaning lady. Tori T. Tuccillo adeptly inhabits an agitated school teacher (“Nobody Tells Me How”) and an energetic waitress (“It’s an Art”). In addition to rendering a tender version of Schwartz’s moving “Fathers and Sons,” William “Kip” Moore, in a welcomed return to the Playhouse, simply mesmerizes as a retiree discussing the monotony of his daily routine (“Joe”).
Scenic designer Chris Newman’s metropolitan backdrop, Allison Eder’s understatedly organic choreography, and musical director Lorri B. Topping’s fine onstage band are added benefits.
“Working” continues through Feb. 16 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The production is performed in 90 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for seniors and students. For tickets or more information, call (937) 424-8477 or visit online at www.daytonplayhouse.com