Friday, December 21, 2012


"WORKING" presented by Prospect Theater Company at 59E59 Theatre, December 12, 2012

(photo: Richard Termine)

Prospect Theater Company presents a new re-working of the 1978 musical based on Studs Terkel's book, with two new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

The streamlined cast of six replaces the seventeen from the original Broadway production, slicing and dicing the remains into a tight 65 intermissionless minutes. 

Director Gordon Greenberg has assembled a talented and capable cast to portray the 25 stories, including Marie-France Arcilla, Joe Cassidy, Donna Lynne Champlin, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Nehal Joshi and Kenita R. Miller. 

Some moments stand out more than others: Ms. Champlin's Rose Hoffman, an aging and out of step teacher who sadly reflects on the degradation of respect for her role in the lives of children over her 45 years in the classroom with Nobody Tells Me How.  She gives another clever moment as the waitress Delores Dante in It's an Art responding to the question, "just a waitress?"  Mr. Johnson gets a nice turn as well as pervy UPS delivery man, Conrad Swibel.
The juxtaposition of Ms. Miller's hooker to Ms. Champlin's high society fundraiser points up how the two roles are more similar than different.

My father always said, "if it were fun, they wouldn't call it 'work'," and for the most part he was right.  Still, of the 25 working stories, there are remarkably few that really expressed any joy.  As much time as we spend working, an uplifting evening of work stories and songs would have more appeal.

WORKING runs through December 30.  Tickets here.

Jackie Hoffman's A Chanukah Charol

"Jackie Hoffman's A Chanukah Charol" at New World Stages, December 8, 2012

Jackie Hoffman's kvetching continues with her new show at New World Stages.  "A Chanukah Charol" is her riff on Patrick Stewart's one-man "A Christmas Carol" retelling her trials and tribulations as an actress in New York.

The mood starts with pre-curtain music of a klezmer band playing Christmas carols. She opens by portraying Mr. Stewart as the narrator of her tale, and she gives a pretty good impersonation. 

Then, she moves into a mix of her ongoing existential career crisis that she's not Victoria Clark or Gertrude Lawrence, along with some new reminiscences of holiday gatherings with her family.  Her Jacob Marley is Molly Picon, telling of incipient visits from the requisite three ghosts, past present and future. The cleverest turn of the three is using Shelley Winters as the Ghost of Chanukah Present.

I've seen just about all of her annual appearances at Joe's Pub and have to say that as much as I liked the concept of this show, I missed her songs that have been part of her cabaret series.  At 75 minutes, it's a small commitment for a bit of fun, Hoffman-style.

"A Chanukah Charol" runs through December 29.  Tickets here.