Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Working originally premiered on Broadway in 1977, but the production at the Bristol Riverside Theatre is the 2012 revised version which includes some much needed updates from Gordon Greenberg and two new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda that were added in an earlier production. The original score is great and includes songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, and James Taylor. The two newer numbers are worthy additions, adding humor and fresh insight while blending seamlessly into the original work. There is no narrative thread running through the songs and monologues, but the transitions are smooth as each character is somehow related to the ones that come immediately before and after.
The ensemble is generally solid and a few of the performances are spectacular. Laura Giknis sings an utterly heartbreaking rendition of the powerful "Millwork." Giknis' character is completely distinct but similarly excellent in the moving number "A Very Good Day" in which she plays a loving Filipino nanny along side the extremely talented Tamar Greene's portrayal of an Indian home health aid. Giknis and Greene also lend their unmistakable talent to a variety of the show's monologues. Demetria Joyce Bailey is pitch perfect as the disenchanted educator in "Nobody Tells Me How" and Jenny Lee Stern is great fun to watch as the slightly loopy waitress in "It's An Art."
There are a few rough moments, too. Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton's numbers "Delivery" and "The Mason" are among the weakest in the show. The high notes in both numbers are beyond Toniazzo-Naughton's vocal range and would be better transposed or at the very least spoken in certain places. A pair of monologues contrasting the career attitudes of two very different, very young men, played by Toniazzo-Naughton and Philip Chaffin, are painfully awkward at best. I would love to see those same monologues handled by Jenny Lee Stern and Laura Giknis instead.
Stephen Casey's simple but playful choreography works well for the production. The use of an on-stage camera projecting onto the backdrop is interesting, but some of the actors staring into it lose their connection to the audience. Andrew Deppen's simple "backstage" set provides the ensemble with many levels to work on and aids the frequent transitions.
Working is an entertaining and uncomplicated evening of musical theater. Director Keith Baker keeps the pace quick and the talented ensemble keeps the energy up. It might even make you feel a little bit better about going into the office on Monday!
Working runs through November 20, 2016, at Bristol Riverside Theatre on 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA. Tickets are available at the box office or by phone at 215-785-0100 or online at brtstage.org.