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Working (Full Screen)

Studs Terkel , Barry Bostwick , Kirk Browning , Stephen Schwartz    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Product Description

This musical adaptation of the Studs Terkel book examines the average worker's viewpoint--showing that he or she is anything but average. Based on a series of interviews with real working people--construction workers, waitresses, firemen, secretaries and cleaning women--"Working" is both an exploration of the individuals' occupations and a lament for lost hopes and dreams. This musical adaptation was conceived by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin). A must for all musical theatre buffs.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Hey Somebody, Don't You Want To Hear... Oct. 15 2002
The story of my life? So begins one of the most underratd musicals ever. With a simple message, "Everyone has a story." This is a TV adaptation of a musical based on a book by Sociologist and pundit Studs Terkel available by the grace of God for the first time on DVD. I knew the play from high school and was anxious to see it on film. It's a fairly reliable adaptation of the play, except that it omits two very fine songs and is kind of simply set up (it was PBS after all).
For those unfamiliar with the book or the musical, Working is based on a series of interviews Terkel performed with people from all walks of life. The book was subtitled "People Talking About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do." Composer and Lyricist Stephen Schwartz (with help from the likes of James Taylor and Craig Carnelia) adapted the interviews (which were verbatim from these peoples' mouths) into a musical.
Now let me adress a common concern right here. "I don't like musicals." Something like that is simply impossible to say. It's like saying "I don't like soup." You can't. There are too many different kinds of musicals (indeed soups) to say that you hate them all. Do you hate bright and sunny musicals like "Meet Me in St. Louis" or lavish dance numbers like "42nd Street" or quasi-historic grandeur like "Camelot?" In Working the musical performances are limited to singing at the camera, or singing off camera.
And the singing is performed by some wonderful people.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better Aug. 23 2002
...- the production is flat & lacking in energy (especially in the chorus numbers "See That Building" & "I Hear America Singing/All the Livelong Day") and sets look cheap. And some of the actors are miscast or can't sing very well. It would have been much better filmed in performance with an audience instead of an empty studio.
I happen to have done this musical & like it, but this is just an OK production. Fans of the show will want to buy it as it's the only "movie" version available.
There are standout performances - Barbara Hershey as a vulnerable hooker, Eileen Brennan as an exhausted millworker, Edie McClurg as a perky operator, Charles "Hill St Blues" Haid as the mischievous "gas man," Charles Durning as a retiree, and James Taylor adds a nice touch as he sings something he actually wrote for the show ("Brother Trucker").
But there are also annoying, jarring or boring performances, like Beth Howland as the housewife & Didi "Grease" Conn as a receptionist - both of them breathy & nasal.
Some actors push it too hard - seems like most were cast because they were the "hot A list" for the moment (i.e. the late 70s) which makes the show a little dated. It would have been better casting some unknowns (but great singers from Broadway). So "Where Are They Now?" - Eileen Brennan? Barbara Barrie? Beth Howland? Didi Conn? Matt Landers? Vernee Watson-Johnson?
Good thing they didn't make an album of this soundtrack - its thin singing & orchestrations pale in comparison to the original cast album of 1978, which has much better singers (like Bob Gunton & David Patrick Kelley) and there's more excitement, feeling & fullness in the songs.
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By Sean
First off, the reason that they are all "staring at the camera" is because this is filmed in a documentary style. As if all of the people are being interviewed about their lives and jobs.
Great performances by an all-star cast. Eileen Brennan ("Clue," "Murder by Death") gives a WONDERFUL performance, but unfortunately does not sing her character's "Millwork" song herself. Patti LaBelle sings the [...] out of her "Cleaning Women" song, but does not seem all that emotionally involved in the proceedings. Barry Bostwick gives a touching and brilliant performance, delivering a heart-wrending rendition of "Fathers and Sons." Rita Moreno stops the show, and other wonderful performances given by all.
The sets are rather like "Sesame Street for adults," but I personally find it to be very affective and theatrical. Semi-realism with some flat, 2-dimensional pieces thrown in there for you to remember that this is--after all--a theatrical piece (despite all of the realism in the documentary-style acting and film-making).
All in all, this is a BEAUTIFUL piece. A show about REAL human beings, telling their lives and stories in a non-linear way. Few musicals about real people are out there (only Sondheim's and Kander & Ebb's pieces, as well as I DO! I DO!, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and RAGTIME come to mind), but those that are are very affective and are truely quite moving.
However, my one MAJOR let down: Craig Carneila's beautiful song "The Mason" is not in this film.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly a big payday. June 17 2002
As a fan of the musical theatre, I get excited when a new show is released on DVD for my enjoyment. WORKING involves material by songsters like James Taylor, Mary Rodgers, Craig Carnelia and Stephen Schwartz who also conceived of the production. So, all in all, this looked to be a promising entertainment.
The resulting presentation is disappointing. It is neither a filmed staging of the show nor a made for television interpretation. It is rather a series of vignettes reminiscent of Sesame Street for adults. Performers take the screen and speak or occasionally sing directly at the viewer. It is awkward especially when some of the performers are not at all enrolling. There are a couple exceptions. Chita Rivera, Eileen Brennen, Aretha Franklin and Barry Bostwick do entertain but their onscreen time comes in around 6 minutes each.
The DVD has a nice audio video transfer retaining the made for television look and sound. It also has a couple bibliographies. All in all, this show is better on DVD mostly because of its historical value, not for entertainment.
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