Theater Review: ‘Working’ at Lyric Stage Company

Working production 22

“Working,” the musical adaptation of Studs Terkel’s groundbreaking tome of the same name that profiles working Americans and the way they feel about their jobs, doesn’t really, well, work as a musical. Despite the best efforts of the Lyric Stage Company, their latest production never takes off, largely because of the show’s unique shortcomings.

The plot consists of a series of stories based on the actual thoughts and feelings of 25 real working people, as they play out over the course of 24 hours. As a book, it’s a fascinating read. As a musical, however, there’s not enough sizzle to compensate for the weak plotline and subsequent lack of flow.

Even the score feels disjointed, though that may be due to a few too many lyricists, including (but not limited to) Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor and Lin-Manuel Miranda, each contributing a different point of view. In this mishmash of styles and stories, some shine, some flop and the rest feel like a muddled mass of filler in between.

The transitions are awkward and sometimes sloppy (usually a result of costume changes), and Anne Sherer’s industrial set creates more havoc than backdrop. Even the usually on-point director/choreographer Ilyse Robbins misses striking marks with questionable directorial choices, like an awkward shoulder-to-shoulder clockwise rotation of the ensemble near the show’s finish.

Despite these problems, there are moments when Robbins and company offer touching insights into the hearts and minds of the workers they portray. Cheeyang Ng’s lovely vocals are a fine complement to his emotional turn as a healthcare worker. Christopher Chew nicely captures the humble pride of an iron worker admiring his masterpiece and Merle Perkins will resonate with many a mother when she expresses the hope that her daughter will one day break tradition and break free from the ranks of cleaning ladies in their family.

Unfortunately, getting to the places where “Working” is worth it takes a bit too much elbow grease.

If you go

“Working”
Through Feb. 1
Lyric Stage
140 Clarendon St., Boston
$25 – $65, 617-585-5678
lyricstage.com


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