South County High School
In the matter of happiness, society's expectations can often become one's downfall. Our society often looks down upon occupations it arbitrarily deems unworthy: those not requiring a college degree or that depend more on physical labor than mental. St. Andrew's Episcopal School's production of Working contends with the idea of trying to overcome the presumptions of the world prioritizing personal happiness over the satisfaction of others.
First performed in 1977, Working is based on a collection of interviews recorded by historian Studs Terkel. This Stephen Schwartz musical follows everyday people as they navigate both their jobs and the complexities of their lives, such as a nanny who cares for another couple's daughter at the expense of her relationship with her own child. Freshened up in 2012 by Lin-Manuel Miranda and James Taylor, the show recounts the experiences of truck drivers and housewives alike, telling the stories of workers from varying backgrounds in a way that forces one to reconsider their perceptions of certain occupations and the people who work in them.
Oliver Bush started the show off strong as ironworker Mike Dillard, his clear vocal intonation and consistent physicality conveying his mere tolerance of his occupation. His struggle with the path set for him by his family and the recognition he desired was beautifully portrayed, as Bush helped to both raise the stakes of the show and bring grounded energy to the production. As housewife Kate Rushton, Charlotte Lobring's subtle expressions and clarity of voice truly embodied Kate's quiet frustration with her work as a stay-at-home mom, never being looked upon favorably by others. With soft mannerisms and constrained movements, her weariness and longing shone through, accompanied by stunning vocals.
The more fatigued characters of Mike and Kate found their more upbeat juxtaposition in waitress Delores Dante, played by Adrienne Ahmad. By twirling her serving tray in all manner of whimsical motions, Ahmad conveyed her character's satisfaction with her job while leaning into the more playful nature of Delores's character. Similarly, Jonas Blum as hedge fund manager Rex Winship helped to lighten the mood of the show with his comic quips and physicality that occupied the stage to the fullest extent. In the song "A Very Good Day", Gabriel Martinez as eldercare worker Utkarsh Utrillo and Annie Li as nanny Theresa Liu played off each other's energy, their combined vocals and subdued expressions conveying a clear sense of longing. The ensemble of the show worked together in commendable coordination despite the difficulties of organizing such large-scale musical numbers via video, and their neatly performed choreographed movements helping to bring further depth to the show.
The utilization of hand-drawn backgrounds (Tinuke Alarapon, Valeska Peters, Christina Rowe, Katie Skinner) for many of the characters was a stunning artistic choice, one that conveyed the differences between the more grounded characters and those who were more fanciful in a physical manner. With many parts edited in the style of a documentary, the transitions between scenes and the overlays of different actors showcased the true talent of the editing team (Mattias Heitner, Dylan Luchsinger, Jack Schoeb). The camera operator (Jack Schoeb) used unique angles, such as transitions from close-ups to wide shots, to make the show feel more realistic and capture the full range of movement displayed by the actors.
At its core, the cast and crew of St. Andrew's Episcopal School captured the struggle between a desire for recognition and individual happiness, fully displaying the idea that "everyone should have something to point to."
Washington-Liberty High School
It's an art to get up and get working all the livelong day. As many of us battle the burn-out and exhaustion working through COVID has brought, this message rings especially true. This past year has showcased just how tiring working in America is and just how easy it is to feel underappreciated. Hard work seems to slip through the cracks. Demands pile up even as people stretch themselves thin to find motivation and meet deadlines. As we log on to Zoom meetings every day, weariness and anxiety run rampant.
Art has been a source of comfort during these unprecedented times, and St. Andrew's Episcopal School delivered just that. Their production of Working, a musical by Nina Faso and Stephen Schwartz, reminded audiences that their efforts don't go unnoticed. This show is based on historian Studs Terkel's interviews from 1974 with American workers, consisting of various songs and monologues that illustrate what working in America means. Reinvigorated with songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda and James Taylor in 2012, the show reminds us that everyday people are some of the bravest people you will ever meet. Whether you're a construction worker or a corporate professional, working every day takes a special kind of strength.
This enthralling performance contained a remarkably talented cast. Although fully virtual, the excitement and thrill that comes with live theatre was in no way lost. Kyle Boozer gave a stellar performance as Frank Decker, an interstate trucker who just keeps on rolling. His charisma surely cannot be overlooked. Boozer's charm, powerful vocals, and knack for comedic timing made Frank memorable and incredibly human.
Charlotte Lobring's portrayal of Kate Rushton, a hardworking housewife, was absolutely delightful. Her crystal-clear voice, honest and focused delivery, and natural stage presence truly captured Kate's exhaustion and perseverance. Although every performance was recorded separately, the impressive editing work of Mattias Heitner, Dylan Luchsinger, and Jack Schoeb brought all the actors together. The song Just a Housewife truly became an ensemble piece as the housewife chorus (Lia Walto, Zyley Bender, Carroll Drucker, Abigail Gaughan, Kitty Hao, Anwen Kelleher, Hannah Newman, and Kamdi Oguchi) and Lobring were edited all onto one screen, singing with passion and energy. Despite the virtual platform, the joy that comes from people singing together and listening to each other was undoubtedly present.
A detail that stood out was the use of backdrops. The art team (Tinuke Alarapon, Valeska Peters, Christina Rowe and Katie Skinner) created hand-drawn backgrounds of the various settings, from homes to restaurants, for the different scenes. The use of colored pencil illustrations bought a kind of quirky charm to the whole show. And a review of this show wouldn't be complete without mentioning the brilliant work of the band. Kate Bailey (guitar), Julian Delogu (violin), Aaron Lobsenz (guitar), Henry Freytag (piano), and Kalev Murray-Rouse (bass) delivered a professional-sounding performance. It was characterized by high energy, passion, and wonderful ensemble work.
St. Andrew's Episcopal School's Working was a reminder that everyone has their own unique story and struggles. It was a tribute to those who are often overlooked, a much-needed message during a time when people all over the world have worked harder than ever before. Whether you're logging onto your fourth Zoom class of the day, taking care of the kids, or driving down the interstate, your work does not go unnoticed. The world needs your passion, your talent, and your story.