54 Sings Working

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54 Sings Working

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, August 12, 2018

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Working, a musical that touched people around the world with songs about everyday American heroes, Stephen Schwartz hosted a night at Feinstein’s/54 Below that exemplified the diverse talent of writers and singers who flock to New York. Emphasizing also the fact that the show is a documentary, Schwartz was a complement to the writers, the talented ensemble, and the wonderful individuals who performed his work of art. With 20+ singers, the night was, more than anything, about the writers and the stories that they told than it was about any of the individual performances. The meteorite-like star Lin-Manuel Miranda contributed a pair of new songs—“Delivery” and “A Very Good Day” (sung by Javier Muñoz, who played Hamilton on Broadway)—for this ever-evolving work of art.

Fittingly, the best performance of the evening by a singer came on the aptly titled “It’s an Art” (Schwartz), about a waitress, performed by Mary Callahan. She serenaded the audience as if she took orders and bussed tables, weaving her way from person to person and crooning, “When somebody says to me, ‘Hey you’re terrific! How come you’re just a waitress?’/I say, ‘Why? Don’t you think you deserve to be served by me?’” Ann Harada offered a strong performance of “Just a Housewife” (Craig Carnelia), followed by an equally powerful “Millwork” (James Taylor) sung by Carolee Carmello.

For most of the performance, Kevin David Thomas was pianist, joined by Andrew Zinsmeister (guitar) and Philip Coiro (drums). But Schwartz took to the keys for his emotional “Fathers and Sons,” (which reminded us of how bittersweet growing up can be with the lines, “I was your hero then/I couldn’t do no wrong as far as you were concerned/You thought I was the best of men/The tables hadn’t turned/You hadn’t learned/How little time it takes/And daddies make mistakes.”

This was a beautiful evening rounded out by exceptional talent. It is incredible to think that these stories drift into our modern canon in the voices of the people who play the bit parts that make America a nation of individuals coalescing into one.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see StruckChris.com