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Review of Working at Southwark Playhouse London

LtoR Kerri Norville, Izuka Hoyle & Nicola Espallardo in WORKING
LtoR Kerri Norville, Izuka Hoyle & Nicola Espallardo in WORKING, credit Robert Workman

With the success of In The Heights behind him, Luke Sheppard returns to Southwark Playhouse to direct this Stephen Schwartz musical about working people. The book it is based on has the subtitle of ‘People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do’, although in this case, they sing too.

The musical is made up of a series of songs and monologues, rather than scenes and songs, and is an insight into the lives of real working people taken from interviews conducted by Studs Terkel in the 1970s. This updated version features new interviews which Stephen Schwartz led in 2006/7 to take account of the change in the workplace since the original book was published.

The show features music by Schwartz and various other composers including James Taylor and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although each song has its own style, the source material is constant throughout so the piece becomes a musical, rather than a musical revue.

It is without doubt that this is an ensemble piece – and what an ensemble! Made up of Gillian Bevan, Dean Chisnall, Krysten Cummings, Siubhan Harrison, Peter Polycarpou and Liam Tamne, the six actors play 26 characters between them. Their combined experience and stunning vocals fill the very small space that is the Southwark Playhouse. Their performances are clear, well formed and intimate, and although it’s nice to see it in such a small theatre, the strength of these characters could fill a West End theatre (and I’m secretly hoping for a transfer!).

The cast is completed by six young actors, all making their professional debuts. At times acting almost as shadows or younger selves of the six older actors, they represent people coming into the workplace for the first time – as they themselves are. The total twelve cast members accompanied by a small but powerful band (brilliantly lead by Isaac McCullough) fill the theatre with beautiful harmonies and create a sound worthy of a West End stage.

There are certain standout performances. Liam Tamne’s ‘Delivery’ is a highlight (and feels like it’s straight out of In The Heights), Gillian Bevan’s ‘It’s An Art’ is stunning and Krysten Cummings’ Cleanin’ Women is a show stealer.

Luke Sheppard’s direction and Fabian Aloise’s choreography make it a smooth a slick evening and at just over an hour and a half, there’s not a second to breathe until the end. It’s a lot to take in, but every moment is well written and beautifully performed.

5 Star Rating

Review by Elliott Wallis

Working is the extraordinary genre-defining musical from Grammy and Academy Award winner STEPHEN SCHWARTZ (Wicked; Godspell) based on Studs Terkel’s best-selling book of interviews with the American workforce.

This highly original and universal portrait of the American workday is told from the perspective of those that the world so often overlooks – the schoolteacher, the housewife, the fireman and the waitress amongst many – whose daily grind and aspirations reflect the truths of the people that make up a nation.

Employing a range of musical styles and genres from contributing composers such as five-time Grammy Award winner JAMES TAYLOR and Pulitzer Prize winner LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA (Hamilton; In The Heights), Working makes for a strikingly dynamic and contemporary look at what it is to work and what it is to be a musical.

Working receives its European premiere from Luke Sheppard, the acclaimed director of the Olivier Award-winning In The Heights.

Creative Team
Director – Luke Sheppard
Choreographer – Fabian Aloise
Musical Supervisor – Alex Parker
Musical Director – Isaac McCullough
Designer – Jean Chan
Costume Designer – Gabriella Slade
Lighting Designer – Nic Farman
Sound Designer – Tom Marshall
Casting – Will Burton CDG
Performed by arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) Ltd

Cast: Gillian Bevan, Dean Chisnall, Patrick Coulter, Krysten Cummings, Nicola Espallardo, Siubhan Harrison, Izuka Hoyle, Luke Latchman, Huon Mackley, Kerri Norville, Peter Polycarpou and Liam Tamne.

Jack Maple, Ramin Sabi,
Christopher Ketner &
D.E.M. Productions
present the European Premiere of
From the book by Studs Terkel
Adapted by
Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso
With additional contributions by
Gordon Greenberg
Songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant,
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers &
Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor
2 JUNE – 8 JULY 2017


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