Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Musical 'Working' honors folks in everyday but essential jobs

Linda Piccone (center), with Mai Abe (left) and a bewigged Ray D'Ambrosio, makes an art of waitressing (Photo by Henry Wilen)

 Palo Alto Players has opened its 91st season with “Working,” a musical adaptation of Studs Terkel’s 1974 book of interviews with American workers from all walks of life.

As managing director Elizabeth Santana pointed out, it’s “a celebration of the essential worker.”

These are the people who wait on tables, clean houses, build buildings, teach children, deliver food, drive trucks, fight fires, rear children and perform other everyday but essential services.

Directed by Patrick Klein, the multi-talented cast of four women and three men tell their characters’ stories through songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor. Schwartz and Nina Faso did the original adaptation.

The characters talk about pride in doing their jobs well along with their hopes and dreams. Their pride is best expressed in the company’s final number, “Something to Point To.” This refers to the construction workers who can point to a building and say they helped build it.

The characters range in age from a Cal freshman (Mai Abe) to a retired man using a walker (Ray D’Ambrosio). Linda Piccone has two solo turns as a veteran teacher who doesn’t know how to deal with today’s kids and as a waitress who makes an art of her work.

Also featured in multiple roles are Izetta Fang Klein (alternating with Stacey Reed), Jomar Martinez, Jason Mooney and Eiko Yamamoto.

The two-level set is by Scott Ludwig with character-specific costumes by R. Dutch Fritz. Choreography is by Stacey Reed with musical direction by Dolores Duran-Cefalu.

The one flaw is Jeff Grafton’s sound design, which is so loud that it distorts most lyrics.

In-person performances continue through Oct. 3 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road. Masks, proof of vaccination or recent COVID test and ID are required.

In addition, a live performance will be streamed at 2 p.m. Sept. 26. A recorded performance will be streamed Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at scheduled curtain times.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.