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Working Cast Album

working album cover with lettering

Re-release of original cast album with lots of special features. [Note: the Compact Disc CD 1978 Cast Album of Working the Musical is currently unavailable]

Working on WORKING

The Journey towards a Long-awaited CD

By Bruce Kimmel

originally published in The Schwartz Scene issue 4

(Followed by a review of the CD)

(Editor's note: WORKING is a musical adapted by Stephen Schwartz and
Nina Faso from Studs Terkel's book by the same title. It includes
songs contributed by Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor, Craig Carnelia,
Mary Rogers, Micki Grant, and Susan Birkenhead.)

Isn't it funny? WORKING is one of the more frequently performed
musicals in stock and amateur. It had a successful PBS special.
People love both score and show. And yet, Sony, who owned the cast
album, had no interest whatsoever in issuing it on CD.

Stephen Schwartz, over the years, has begged and badgered Sony to no
effect. He even tried to have BMG license it, to no effect. So, one
of the first things I decided to do when we started Fynsworth Alley,
was to try to license WORKING. Why? Simple. I adore Stephen Schwartz
and I wanted him to have a home here at Fynsworth Alley.

I knew that Sony had a very active licensing division, but I also
knew that I might face adversaries who could make this process an up
hill battle. Two gentleman who are not officially employed with Sony
but serve as a consulting duo aren't interested in releasing certain
show titles and don't really want anyone else to. Unless, that is,
they can be involved and get paid their "fee."

We contacted Sony's licensing division directly. The woman in charge
could not have been nicer. She knew exactly what was going on with
the consulting duo and, for whatever reason, was determined to
license to us. She said she was going to try and keep this "under the

Now, nothing in show business happens fast and the licensing of
WORKING was no exception. We began the journey in November, 2000 with
informal discussions. Then they presented us with their proposal,
which is a strange "finished goods" deal, wherein Sony does the
pressing of the discs for an all-in-one price. We agreed to the deal
with one caveat: That we be allowed to remaster it. They agreed.

Then in February, 2001, the licensing proposal went to
the "executives" for approval. At the same time I was,
coincidentally, scheduled to sit on one of the ASCAP/Disney panels
that Stephen moderates (I've done those for the last six years and
they're a blast). And so, I told him that we'd put in for WORKING. He
was like a little kid who'd just been told he was going to Disneyland
for the first time.

Eight more weeks went by and then our contact at Sony called and
said "You've got it." Well, we were jumping for joy. I called Stephen
and he was elated. Sony sent me the tapes so that we could master the

I suggested to Stephen that it would be swell if we could include
demos as bonus tracks. He loved the idea. Then Craig Carnelia called
and said he had some demos, too. So, we gathered the bonus material,
mastered the CD, and prepared the booklet. We then sent the whole
thing to Sony for pressing. End of story? Not quite.

About a week before they were to press and ship the new CD we
received a note from one of the consulting duo members. He said that
if he were involved, and if we'd pay his fee, he would insure that
we'd get anything we'd put in for in the future in terms of
licensing. When we wrote back a polite note and said "no,"
coincidence reared its ugly head and suddenly we had to face new
obstacles. We received a call from our licensing contact at Sony who
told us the executives had problems with us including the bonus
tracks (even though we'd cleared it with her right at the beginning).
They now wanted clearances from each writer.

We were trying to meet a release date so we quickly called Stephen
and the other artists involved. Stephen was, of course, fine, but
suddenly we were talking to other composers' managers and publishers
and the clock was ticking away. The executives wanted signed releases
in hand before they would press the CD. All this took another week. I
was to the point where I was ready to yank the bonus tracks entirely
even though it would have been very expensive to do so. Finally we
got all the signed releases, the disc was finally pressed, and we
made our release date. Whew! And, the good news is, the album is
selling really well on our website (www.fynsworthalley.com) and it
looks like it will do the same when it hits the stores July 10th.

Also by Bruce Kimmel: Bruce Kimmel's Writer's Block

Working Cast Album - 2001 release - A Review By Robert Levyd

Robert Levy is a life-long fan of the theatre since he saw his first Broadway musical in 1965. Robert designed a production of WORKING in North Carolina and has directed the show (as well as Children of Eden) for a summer straw hat theatre in Pennsylvannia. Trained as a designer, he is currently directing and teaching at the university level. He is dramaturg on a new Broadway-bound musical, scheduled to open in NYC in the fall of 2002 and working on a new musical comedy set in Hellenistic Greece.

When my scratchy Columbia LP of WORKING finally wore out, I thought I wouldn't be able to listen again to the souvenir of a short-lived, quirky and original musical again. Finally WORKING has been reissued on CD, and it's like stepping into a time machine. While I was impressed by the show when I first saw in during its extremely short run, I thought it was weighted down by a lackluster and ponderous production, sliding palettes, treadmills, descending bridges and I-beams forever tracking on and off stage. The beauty of WORKING is in the book and the songs, and the simple story it tells about our work, our workplace and our attitudes about it. At least the songs were recorded on LP and finally re-released by Fynsworth Alley.

The story of WORKING is the story of the American workplace, from high-rise ironworkers, to car hikers, to businessmen, paperboys, housewives and others speaking adaptations of the interviews from Studs Terkel's book accompanied by magnificent songs by theatre veterans Craig Carnelia (Is the Life After High School), Micki Grant (Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope), Mary Rodgers (Once Upon a Mattress), Susan Birkenhead (The Triumph of Love), Stephen Schwartz (at that time Godspell, Pippin) and pop/folk icon, James Taylor.

The effect is a pastiche... a fanfare for the common man. The songs, inspired by Terkel's interviews, give insight into the lives and thoughts of the heroes of the workplace. While this comes across magnificently on stage, the recording is simply the songs.

THE NEW CD: There is no sense of the show in the recording, nor is there the progression of the workday as the songs on the disc are not in the same order as they appear in the show. The disc suffers from the time limitations of the LP format as well what seems to be an attempt at a pop recording rather than a traditional recording. All we have is the songs, none of the poignant monologues that break between the verses, little of the characterization, and no connection between the material.

But we do have the songs, and the songs are what has saved this twenty-five performance musical from obscurity and have made it a staple of educational and community theatres. To get a full sense of the characters, listen to the recording, then read the interviews from Terkel's book, then marvel at the insight of the composers and lyricists at how they were able to capture the characters in song in this unique non-traditional musical show.


The disc begins with Schwartz' All the Livelong Day, although the show began with children (recorded) singing I've been Working on the Railroad. (The published script begins with the ILGWU's theme Look for the Union Label) which sets the evening and introduces us to many of the characters that we see throughout the evening. The orchestration by Kirk Nurock plants us firmly in the late 1970s with swelling "disco" strings and funk riffs on guitar and bass.

Loving Al (Grant) is a swinging Ellington-esqe paean to the car hiker. On the recording the song isn't weighted with the ridiculous and over blown production number in the Broadway show. (also a demo of the song sung by Grant in the Bonus Tracks)

Neat to be a Newsboy (Schwartz) a humorous song about an eleven year old entrepreneur that tends to get lost on the CD as Matthew McGrath is almost unintelligible, and the references to Jimmy Carter seem out of place.

Un Mejor Dia Vendra (Taylor) is a beautiful song sung in Spanish, Spanish lyrics by cast member Matt Landers and choreographer Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Hello Again), by a migrant worker who is trying to build grocery patrons' awareness to the UFW table grape boycott. (Yes, it was 1978). While a beautiful song, it is the monologue, not on the recording, that gives the scene its power. Working, to make things better for your children is a common theme throughout the show, but is nowhere to be found on the recording.

Millworker (Taylor), an effecting ballad that was also included on his Flag, album. Bette Midler and others also recorded the breakout song from the show, but Robin Lamont's version is as moving and heartbreaking. The song's simple folk orchestration (guitar, recorder, mandolin, string fills and simple percussion) underlies the pain of the piece. Lost however on this or any recording is the introduction by Grace, the older arthritic worker, who has become part of the machine at which she works.

It's An Art (Schwartz) sung by Leonora Nemetz is an anomaly in the show and on the disc. It is a big brassy production number (albeit with a single character and eating chorus) amidst personal statements. But then again the monologue in Terkel's book stands out as well. The waitress is a unique character who turns her job into a nightly performance primarily to keep her sanity.

Brother Trucker (Taylor) also recorded in an unexpurgated version on Flag, is one of the songs that survives better on disc than on the Broadway stage. On the disc you can't see the dancers singing and moving along two semi cabs tracking up and down stage.

Fathers and Sons (Schwartz) is the only reference to the "we work for our children" on the disc, but again the moving monologue by the ironworker which added layers of understanding and emotion to the number is missing. (also sung by Schwartz in the Bonus Tracks) In all productions of the show that I have done, this song NEVER failed to reduce every male over twenty-five to a mass of tears.

Bonus Tracks. One of the great advantages of CD's over LP's is the amount material that can be recorded upon them. While I enjoyed the song I'm Just Movin (Schwartz) written for the new version of the show, I would have liked some of the material from the original piece that was left off the LP. Michelle Bourman's Bookman and his Wife and Treasure Island Trio (The piece that I assume was replaced by I'm Just Movin) are notably absent. The demo recordings of The Mason and Joe (both by Carnelia) are not appreciably different from the recorded counterparts to merit inclusion, and Hots Michael at the Piano (Carnelia) clearly shows why it was cut from the show.

The packaging is utilitarian to say the least, there is little in it about the show other than Stephen Schwartz's recollections. Singers are identified only by their real names and not by character names, and " the company", which included character actors, Bobo Lewis, Rex Everhard, Arny Freeman, and Brad Sullivan, future Broadway stars Bob Gunton, Susan Bigelow, Patti Lupone and others are not even mentioned. Yet it brings back memories, glorious memories.

Re-release of original cast album with lots of special features. [Note: the Compact Disc CD 1978 Cast Album of Working the Musical is currently unavailable]

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