Of course, Working the musical was originally adapted from the Studs Terkel book, Working. Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz provided the adaptation, with one Nina Faso. Schwartz also directed the Broadway production, in addition to contributing three of the show's strongest songs ("All the Livelong Day," "It's an Art," "Fathers and Sons").
But Working is one of those shows that authors and adaptors keep returning to, like Merrily We Roll Along or Mack and Mabel, shows that, very similar to Working, sound so great on their cast recordings, it's hard to believe that the shows themselves don't work.
In terms of new material, the most effective new segment comes from Lin-Manuel Miranda, a touching new song called "A Very Good Day," in which the aforementioned health-care worker and au pair sing plaintively about doing what "no one [else] wants to do." Miranda's other song about a delivery boy is bland and unimpressive, but "A Very Good Day" seems to fit right into the intent of the show.
The Lyric production features a cast of local professional and semi-pro actors, and the results are almost universally strong. There was a bit of artificiality to a few of the performances, and the singing voices weren't all up to par, but for the most part these are people who wouldn't be out of place in a New York production of the show, or indeed any other show. Especially strong are the versatile Christopher Chew and the vibrant Shannon Lee Jones playing the more mature roles throughout the show.
Director/choreographer Ilyse Robbins does a fine job with the character work, but her musical staging here is somewhat amateurish. The group numbers feature unimaginative movement (step-touch, step-clap, allemande left, promenade right, etc.) giving the thankfully few ensemble moments a decided "Waiting for Guffman" feel. Also, the pacing of the show needs picking up: if you're not going to have an intermission, it's wise to keep the proceedings to about 90 minutes. This production clocks in and about 110. On the plus side, Robbins and lighting designer John Malinowski make very effective using of lighting to set the mood and emphasize transitions.
Working may never work overall as a piece, but there's plenty of pleasure to derive from the fragments, as well as the Lyric production of same. At a time when even the most well-heeled of regional theaters are falling back on safe, predictable choices, it's commendable that the Lyric would take a chance on an admittedly flawed but nonetheless fascinating show.