Excitement filled the air as students, parents, faculty and others filled the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre of NJ during the opening night of “Working.”
The Department of Theatre and Dance and the Drew University Dramatic Society presented “Working” this past weekend (March 31 to April 2, 2022). The musical was based on a book by Studs Terkel, adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso and features music written by artists such as Lin-Manuel Miranda and James Taylor.
The show began with a presentation of words above the stage, “America” being the core of them. These people represented America and its hopes and dreams. The whole cast came on stage and began to sing “All the Livelong Day.” It set the scene for numerous actors who played a variety of everyday characters, ranging from delivery men to housewives, to tell the stories of their lives. I noticed Act I focused on the hardships their jobs bring and how others looked down upon the value of these workers since they were doing the jobs no one else wanted or strived to do. Despite this, it was shown that they were the backbone of society. As each actor would begin to tell their story, the screen above would tell you their name and job. The jobs were laborious and undervalued.
Act II changed the narrative and presented a different perspective. The characters and their jobs represent the backbone of society and should be celebrated as such. The second act’s theme was hope. When each character came back on stage, the screen above displayed their name and value in society rather than their job title. For example, a caregiver was originally the job no one wanted, but then it encouraged the audience to appreciate that. Another example of characters getting a different perspective was the cleaning ladies doing their job so their kids didn’t have to work. This showed that everyone has a reason for pushing forward, whether it be for their children or passions. Overall, the narrative was filled with hope and pride.
Not only was the difference noticeable on stage, but the audience could feel the difference in emotions. Act I felt sad and hopeless while Act II made the audience feel proud for the characters. As a whole, the musical gave hope for our society. It showed that every job is valuable.
As the show came to an end, the whole cast sang “Something to Point To,” an inspirational song that gave me chills. It reminded the audience and characters that everyone deserves to be proud of what they do. The song kept referencing this concept by pointing to a building, implying that even the smallest, most insignificant things deserve recognition, like knowing you helped build that. People deserve to be proud of their jobs and achievements—they don’t deserve to be overlooked and undervalued.
The Drew Performing Arts Access also played a big role in this production that should not be left unnoticed. They created a space where people with disabilities can still enjoy this amazing show, like providing a projector on the side of the stage, which displayed all the lines and lyrics as they were read and sung, as well as hearing devices.