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In City Rep’s “Working,” A Job Becomes a Musical

| January 15, 2016

working studs terkel city repertory theatre

Robert Dimsey, right, portrays a truck driver and sings the James Taylor song “Brother Trucker” in the City Repertory Theatre production of “Working.” Cast member Peter Gutierrez stands in the background. The musical, based on a book by Studs Terkel, will be staged Friday Jan. 15 through Jan. 24. (Tom Bird)

To easily buy tickets for working, go here.

The musical being staged by City Repertory Theatre “has no story,” director John Sbordone gleefully concedes.

This same musical, though created by Stephen Schwartz of “Godspell” and “Wicked” fame, has no show-stopping hits, says cast member Julia Davidson Truilo. There’s no readily memorable hit such as “Memory” from “Cats” or “Tomorrow” from “Annie.”

Yet Sbordone and Truilo believe this musical, “Working,” which runs Friday Jan. 15 through Jan. 24 at City Rep, will have near-universal appeal. The play is based on the 1974 book by Studs Terkel titled “Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.”

“Anybody who’s worked, anybody who’s had trouble with their bosses, who wants to ring their necks, who has had the drudgery of daily work and has to get through it is going to relate to this very easily,” Sbordone says.

The musical “in no way is an intellectual discussion of workers,” says Truilo, a Turkel fan who read “Working” in the 1970s. “The play is them in their own words, and that’s coming out of the Turkel book. That’s what it is — interviews. He really listens to them and when Schwartz was adapting it, he really listened to those voices. So those voices are very individual. They’re really authentic.

“This play pretty much speaks to everybody. What’s the line? ‘The show for anybody who has ever punched a clock or wanted to punch the boss’ (laughs).”

At City Repertory Theatre:

    “Hand to God,” directed by John Sbordone, staged by City Repertory Theatre at 7:30 p.m. May 3-4 and 10-11, and 3 p.m. May 5 and 12. Performances are at CRT’s venue in City Market Place, 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B207, Palm Coast. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students. For more information or tickets, call the CRT box office at 386-585-9415 or easily book tickets online here. 

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Like the Turkel book, “Working” the musical hopscotches across the American employment landscape, with its role call of characters connecting fleetingly much like workers in various professions do in actual life. And so, for example, a steelworker muses about some unknown person driving a car made with the steel he fashioned, which leads to a parking lot valet singing about his obsession with cars.

The musical was updated in 2012 to reflect changes in the workplace.

“Back in the ’70s, the workforce was doing different kinds of jobs — there were no computers,” Sbordone says. But the City Rep production still includes such workers as a mason, a fireman, a waitress and even a hooker.

Each one of the eight-member City Rep cast portrays multiple characters. Truilo’s workers include a secretary in a cubicle, a school teacher who is near the end of her career, a fund-raising socialite, a mill worker, a waitress and a cleaning woman.

Fittingly, the music credits for “Working” include more than a half-dozen songwriters along with Schwartz, with the most renowned being folkie pop-rock icon James Taylor, who contributed “Millwork” and “Brother Trucker.”

Truilo’s favorite piece is the Schwartz-penned “It’s an Art,” sung by her waitress character. While Truilo is a veteran who performed in numerous Broadway musicals by the defunct Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach, the waitress song has allowed her to get in touch with another side of her musical self: Truilo also is a classically trained mezzo-soprano who has performed in operas and operettas with such companies as the Santa Fe Opera, Orlando Opera, Michigan Opera Theater and the Opera Ensemble of New York. She has even performed at Carnegie Hall several times.

The waitress song “incorporates a little opera and it’s just fun,” Truilo says. “The show contrasts people who love their job and hate their job — or are stuck in their jobs. The waitress recognizes her job’s limitations but she loves it. ‘It’s an Art’ is a fabulous song.”

The musical’s diverse styles also include rock, what Sbordone calls “anthem-like” pieces” and a jazz number by the valet, who is portrayed by Andre Maybin (he starred as Jesus in City Rep’s “Godspell”). And Peter Gutierrez plays a retired fireman “who performs a very Jacques Brel-ian kind of song,” Sbordone says. “It’s a fascinating piece.”

Other cast members include Frank Anello, Lloyd Bowers, Chelsea Jo Conard, Robert Dimsey and Laniece Fagundes.

Musical director is Benjamin Beck, a veteran of area community theater productions who is making his City Rep debut.

“He makes all the sound effects on a computer while he plays the keyboard,” Sbordone says. “I look at him and go, ‘Oh, that’s possible?’ (laughs). I’ve come to enjoy the music in this as much as any show I’ve done. Audiences are going to find it interesting.”

City Repertory Theatre will stage the musical “Working” at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays from Jan. 15-24 in City Marketplace, 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite 207B, Palm Coast. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for students, available by calling 386-585-9415 or online here.

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