Adapted from a book of interviews with American workers by Studs Terkel and first performed in 1978, Working explores American working life through the actual words of those interviewed. The music is by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) and Nina Faso. Twenty-six workers sing and talk about their lives, their jobs and their hopes. The range of jobs covered is vast: iron worker, parking lot attendant, schoolteacher, office workers, supermarket checker, trucker, salesman etc.
Working is very different from most stage musicals, in that there are no lead parts and there is no unified plot. There is also no narrative thread carrying the action forward, but it is arranged so that one scene makes a smooth transition into the next and what one character is saying is related in content to the character who precedes and follows. This makes Working an excellent ensemble piece, because it gives many actors a chance to share the spotlight. It was chosen for Edinburgh by the director for precisely this reason.
Without a single lead and with no clear narrative, the musical relies on all round performance and succeeds triumphantly. Every performer sings well and with passion while on stage he or she really is a waitress, a cleaner or a mill worker. Working is gripping from beginning to end and the time flies by. I had never seen it performed before and enjoyed it immensely. The music is also surprisingly good. Because it uses workers actual words, they come across as genuine and moving. A real gem.