Illinois Central College Theatre Department
February 28 - March 2 & March 7 - 9
By Marty Lynch
Taking in a show at Illinois Central College has always been a pleasant experience for me. The space is lovely and they pick good scripts, which is all anyone can ask of a theatre. Everything else is gravy. I am glad that they took on a musical the size of Working. This is the kind of show that shows the audience and the company alike what Peoria is capable of doing.
It turns out that Working is based on a collection of interviews published by Studs Terkel in 1974. Starting in 2007 those interviews were updated and this musical was developed. From there, we see dozens of working stiffs from all walks of life as they tell us their stories.
The Performing Arts Center is probably not the largest stage in the area, but it is the one that feels largest. The seating is broken up into generous sections and the panels of the ceiling give you the sense that you are in a new building held together with technology NASA and caterpillar developed together. It’s a unique blend of intimate and airy that has the power to envelope any designer that fails to embrace it. Marty Savolskis creates a terrific set that serves both as a supplement to the theatre and a seamless blend of the stage into the theatre that invites the audience to a world that is immediately their own. Adding to that is the fact that director Chris Gray approaches the show in the same way, bringing the company on slowly to mill about before the stage manager begins the show on stage.
The show is a revue-style musical, so there is no plot to speak of. Each vignette is a portrait of a separate occupation, or a life stage in careers. They have disparate viewpoints and values since they come from unique interview subjects. What they share is a theme outside of the obvious. On the surface we see a cross-section of men and women that are earning a living, but what we are actually looking at is a portrait. The melancholy tone of the music lets us know that times are tough and getting tougher. Instead of referring to a position as his career, it’s a first job now. One character explains capitalism to us, another observes how the times they are a changin’, and one particularly poignant character declares ”what you do is what you are.” The show was developed before, during and after the housing bubble brought down the market in 2008. This show captures the zeitgeist in such a way that it feels like a time capsule from an era that hasn’t ended yet.
The general image of the show feels contemporary as well. I mentioned that I love the set by Savolskis, but the costumes, sound, lighting, and direction blended extremely well for this production. I could probably gush over any production element here, and that serves as a feather in the cap of each designer, but director Chris Gray earns special kudos for bringing a full scale musical together during what must have been the snowiest rehearsal period ever.
For a show like this, the biggest sacrifice is the fact that relationships never get to flourish. There can be no lovers or rivals for more than a few minutes. In cases like that, it is hard to tell sometimes if the strongest, or for that matter the weakest, performances are in part due to the material. Regardless of how it came about, plenty of actors brought highlights to the stage. Ryan Groves landed the song “Delivery Boy,” easily the funniest song in the show, and he delivers it splendidly. Matthew Henry and Arianna Morgan share “A Very Good Day,” and their voices are perfectly matched to a lovely song that comes across as just beautiful. Victor Griffith has the standout performance as Joe Zutty in a song that is half music and half shtick. There are dozens more that I could name here, but I would hate to spoil the show for you.
The show runs a quick 95 minutes from start to finish with no intermission. The show is PG rated and anyone that has lived and worked in America can relate to this show. Take the time after a long work week to see what ICC has to offer. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Working runs March 7 - 9 with a 7:30 pm curtain on Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 pm on Sunday. Tickets are $7 for general public, $5 for students and senior citizens. You can purchase tickets at 309-694-5136 or www.ArtsAtICC.com
• There is a bright and beautiful collection of art in the lobby right now.
• I love the tiny triangular pit at this stage. I love the fact that there was a (exceptional) live band playing in the pit.
• Peoria Players is close, but after walking through the lobby I think ICC’s audience may win the prize for “Most Bouquets for Performers”
• I never give superlatives and that’s twice in one review. I guess I caught Oscars fever this year.
• There was a proud Mom taking a flurry of photographs of her baby onstage. I can usually ignore it but her phone felt brighter than the sun. It looked like it took decent pictures, though.
• Seriously, this rehearsal period must have been a nightmare. Was there ever a week without a snow day?
• Rosco makes some absolutely corny gobo patterns that even a bad prom decorator would not use. Rob Fulton found a way to use them in a show, and use them well.
• I can’t say why, but “If I Could Have Been” immediately reminded me of “Bus From Amarillo.” Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much.
Posted March 4, 2014