The latest musical performed by Homer High School students is a departure from the typical production. Instead of following lead characters through a journey, the song and dance of “Working: A Musical” gives glimpses into the lives of the average working stiff in America.
The show runs over three days at the Mariner Theater: Thursday, March 31 at 6 p.m., Friday, April 1 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors, $7 for students, and $35 for families, and can be purchased at the Homer Bookstore or at the door.
Based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel’s book “Working; People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do,” the musical was adapted for stage by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso. The show opened on Broadway in 1978 and became popular for regional theatres, colleges and high schools, despite its short run, according to Schwartz’s website. The show was updated in 2012 so it would be relevant to the modern technology filled world and the realities of those in jobs relevant today.
Homer High’s students are producing the updated version of “Working,” which features 14 songs telling the stories of iron workers, office workers, a hedge fund manager, a flight attendant, housewives, a stone mason, a retiree, a publicist and a cast of other workers who run the world without notice. The stories flow throughout the show as vignettes, individual scenes with common themes.
“‘Working’ also reinforces the importance of taking both personal responsibility and personal pride in the work we do, and calls us to remember that we all have something to point to that is ours,” said Homer High School director of choirs Kyle Schneider.
The characters in the show tell stories of pride in their jobs, regrets about their life choices, despair at their futures and gripe about bad bosses. Each performer found ways to identify with their characters as many have people in their lives who have worked thankless or unnoticed jobs.
Zane Wilkinson, who solos as the stone mason, and Elise Webber, who is a housewife, both modeled their characters after family members.
“My character started being a stone mason when he was 17, right out of high school, and he’s been doing it for 40 years. I have an uncle who did the exact same thing, so I got a lot of my stone mason ideas and qualities from him,” Wilkinson said.
“Right now I’m playing a character that is a lot like my mom,” Webber said. “She is very unappreciated, she doesn’t really want to talk about it because she wants to look good for her kids and her family, but when she starts the song her emotions come out more and more and she kind of has this big rant about ‘you don’t know what I do, you don’t know that I enjoy what I do, but it’s hard, you don’t understand that choosing to be a housewife was my own decision and you shouldn’t judge me for that.’”
Working’s cast of unique but relatable characters, mixed with the talent of the students of Homer High School, provides a range of emotion for the audience to experience.
“It’s telling the stories of people who worked,” said Zachary Nelson, who plays a truck driver and a father in two different scenes. “You think about stories like romantic stories, but I feel like this musical gets down into the world of what you don’t see very often.”