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Review – Working: A Musical

July 22, 2007

Last night Starla tricked me into going to see Working: A Musical with her. I hate musicals. However, I mention the experience here in hopes that anyone who lives in Lexington will take the time to support the play by going to watch it. Remember, the arts are not a luxury!

The musical, once-popular in the 1970s Broadway circuit, is adapted from Studs Terkel’s book Working, a record of interviews with workers across a range of professions. Both Terkel’s book and the musical adaptation of it are prime examples of “the truth told slant;” readers (and viewers) must interpret the singing and dancing and derive from it a series of important questions. How can workers find meaning? What are the conditions that demand workers sell their labor for such scant compensation? In what ways are workers alienated from commodities they produce?

These questions come indirectly via a sequence of songs (solos, sung conversations, group anthems, etc.) at Studs’, a nicely-constructed bar. Of course, a watering hole seems to be a locale that naturally unites the working class, yet the bar set of the musical also requires a little willing suspension of disbelief. Do disgruntled elementary teachers, wistful housewifes, and high-rolling investment bankers really go to bars at the end of the day and mingle with masonry workers, truckers, and factory laborers? Probably not, but the set provides a venue for each to air his or her angst with the American labor force, where a worker inevitably becomes his or her work.

The strength of Working: A Musical is that it tends to leave the questions of what drives our labor force unanswered. The quality of the production is about as good as one could expect. The cast are students at BCTC (the local community college), and most of them are above average singers.

To substantiate my claims, I have included a review of the musical in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

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