May 2, 2023
The ETBU Department of Music and Theatre Arts ended the spring theatre season with the production of Working: The Musical, a thought-provoking and inspiring look at the real essential American workers, live on stage April 20-23 in Mabee Recital Hall at Jenna Guest Music Building on ETBU's campus. The show was directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Natalie Wilson assisted by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Andrew Wilson, and choreographed by ETBU senior theatre arts education major Amy Hobbs.
"A few short years ago, we tried to define what work is 'essential' to our society," Natalie Wilson said. "We created guidelines and made exceptions for those whose jobs were deemed more valuable or productive to keep us going in the pandemic. Since the fall of man, we have all been destined to work, and whether it's in an office or at home, all work is essential to someone. All work bears fruit. But why do we work? What is the point of work? Are we working to live or living to work? These questions are precisely what Working: The Musical is about."
From delivery boy to millworker to artist to retiree, the lyrics throughout the production highlight a variety of occupations and seasons of life in America, with musical numbers ranging from slow and solemn to hopeful and upbeat.
"The songs in this musical are more ensemble-focused, so everyone has a chance to step up and have their moment to sing about the work they do," sophomore musical theatre major Lanie Pritchett shared. "There's not one genre or style of music; it's sort of all over the place. I think that represents how life is and what jobs are like. There are so many different ones, and they are all vital."
Working: The Musical is full of relatable stories and opportunities to gain new perspectives. The show dismantles stereotypes, unpacks the struggles of the nine-to-five known by so many, and celebrates average Americans who wake up each day to contribute to a fast-paced society of people just trying to make ends meet.
"This show really sends the message that everyone's career choices are important," senior theatre arts design and tech major Rachel House said. "Just because someone's occupation is not important to you does not mean it isn't somebody else's treasure. Someone may not want to be a housewife, but others would love to. You and I may not want to be a stonemason, but there are people who love building houses. Just because it's not essential to one individual doesn't mean it's not essential to somebody else."
Based on the book by Studs Terkel and adapted for the stage by Nina Faso and Stephen Schwartz, the twelve-song set featured popular musical numbers from Tony Award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In the Heights, Encanto), as well as favorites by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) and James Taylor (How Sweet it is, You've Got a Friend, Fire and Rain). Vocal direction was led by ETBU Assistant Professor of Music Judith Shelton. The orchestra was conducted by ETBU Director of Bands Dr. Nathan Phillips, featured live during the play.
"Community is at the center of this production," Hobbs said. "In the final number, the lyrics share about people who build buildings and people who work in those buildings. If a poet has a cabin where he writes, someone has to build that cabin for him. The show reminds us that it's important to see every individual we meet as a person first, not just their occupation—it challenges us to remember the unspoken heroes in our daily lives we take for granted."