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DOUGLASS: Cast of ‘Working’ exudes confidence in moving performance

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Photo by Emily Dever/Center for Teaching and Learning

Taking on and executing a well-done musical is a big endeavor. Developing and executing a well-done musical that speaks to the heart and raises important questions about our society is an even bigger one. Yet, in its production of “Working,” Marquette Theatre showed no fear in approaching both tasks – something that led to a confident and great production.

“Working” is a small-cast musical that combines the stories of different working people across America. From teachers to truck drivers to prostitutes to hedge fund managers, each actor is charged with portraying several different roles and singing along to several different styles of music. Again, it’s a tough thing to do, especially because the show is almost always in transition from one narrative to another.

But the chosen cast was ready for the challenge, and both the cast and production team’s confidence showed.

When it came to the show’s details, it was apparent that several minds carefully thought through costuming to set changes. The costumes consisted of primarily neutral colored shirts that were accented with whatever accessories would clue viewers into what role the actor was playing for that scene.

The set changes and choreography were similar: subtle, under the radar, yet served their purpose well. With only a few minor hiccups, large platforms and colorful walls were moved in and out of the frame swiftly so that viewers could again focus on the actors who were using their talent to fill the otherwise empty stage.

The entire cast was notable for their exceptional performance, yet some faces and voices ultimately stood out more than others.

Actresses Lindsay Webster, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Anna Otto, a senior in the College of Communication, both had songs to themselves that left viewers stunned. Webster’s ballad, “Millwork,” in which she conveyed the angst of a modern day factory worker, was belted out effortlessly, with both her captivating expressiveness and powerful vocals making the piece what I felt to be the best moment in the show.

Otto, on the other hand, had a different emotion to convey as she hopped playfully around the stage during her song, “It’s an Art,” portraying the pride of an established waitress in mastering her occupation. Otto’s choreographed dance routine during the piece was the most complex in the entire show, yet the actress didn’t miss a step or note the whole song.

Aside from these notable musical moments, the character acting by Michael Nicholas and A.J. Magoon, both seniors in the College of Communication, proved to be incredibly impressive.

Nicholas had several lengthy monologues in which many actors would lose their place, or more likely, lose the attention of the audience. Yet, no matter his role, viewers remained locked in as he filled the stage with a personable, professional delivery each time.

Meanwhile, Magoon hit his stride in playing a conceited businessman whose demeanor was anything but personable. Viewers ended the scene disgusted by the greed and pride that oozed from the character, which was a testament to the actor’s excellent portrayal. Later, however, Magoon was endearing when playing a quirky retiree, demonstrating a phenomenal ability to embody distinctly different personas within the same show.

Marquette Theatre did many, many things well in its production of “Working.” The show itself is an important one for students in particular to encounter, with its messages about the workforce and even stereotypes in our society proving to be truths that all people will face.

Whether interested in seeing a fun show, pondering some broad societal questions or witnessing the incredible talent of some of Marquette’s students, “Working” will not disappoint.

“Working” runs at Helfaer Theatre through Oct. 8.

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