The musical "Working," as presented by the Elden Street Players at Herndon's Industrial Strength Theatre, is amazing.
The musical, produced by Les Zidel and directed by Rick Tenney with choreography by Terlene Terry-Todd, was adapted from Studs Terkel's book, which was based on 140 taped interviews with blue-collar workers across America.
On a tri-level set by Russell A. Duerr, the 22 cast members assemble.
As the show begins, they perform their daily tasks in mime, to the resounding "All the Livelong Day."
The first of the many individuals we meet is a parking lot attendant, Al. Riccardo Wright in "Lovin' Al" gives a mischievous account of how he parks and unparks cars.
Wright sings splendidly and is backed by three ladies who look very much like blue-collar workers trying to be vamps.
Caroline Kenney introduces a secretary who, when an executive demands "pool" services she need not perform anymore, returns to him work so misspelled and messy (but with a charming note saying she'd be glad to help him any time). We can only be amused by her triumph when she confides, "He never called on me again!"
Later, Kenney's account of the hooker Roberta's life is excellently done, and in "Millwork," she reveals a beautiful voice in addition to her considerable acting talent.
Shannon Gough, though only 15, is nothing short of astonishing in "Neat to be a Newsgirl," in which she tells us that when parents are grumpy and siblings are mean, you just roll up a paper, throw it in a bush and watch the bushes go "Boinngg, Boinngg, Boinngg!"
Teresita Maldonado tells of the lives of migrant workers, and sings the haunting "Un Major Dia Vendra," beautifully assisted by Rob Leary.
Leary later has a marvelous monologue about being a rather out-of-place '60s-spirited copy boy.
Rich Klare introduces a meter reader who suggests how to deal with difficult dogs and shares how the job can be livened up by crying out, "Gas man," when encountering a woman sunbathing topless.
Pam McCoy does a beautiful job with "Just a Housewife," singing of the million things she does, like being somebody's mother and somebody's wife, though people seem nowadays to feel it is not enough.
As the millworker, Connie Strait recounts the horror of her day -- an eight-hour shift with 10-minute breaks, and another 20 for lunch -- as she goes through the same dozen or so dreary motions over and over in a luggage factory.
Strait later sings the powerful "Cleanin' Women," in which she gives a noble account of all the faceless women like herself, who do their work with the dream that their daughters won't have to.
Arturo Estrada exquisitely lays bricks that are not there, as Reid Lamothe flawlessly sings "The Mason."
Lamothe later tells us about his love of the sea as sailor Booker Page.
Olga Morales, always graceful and a treat to watch, is bold and hilarious as the waitress in "It's an Art."
The startling discovery of the show is that the elegant Sue Pinkman is preposterously funny as a far-from-classy hotel switchboard operator.
Someone must find an enormous comedy lead for this actress at once.
Edgar Glick sings the touching "Joe," a bittersweet study of retirement.
And Felix Humphrey, an anchor throughout as the steelworker, sings the stunningly beautiful "Fathers and Sons."
Jerry Waters did the lighting and the six musicians were directed by Joe Gems.
All the individuals we see do work that is routine, grueling and often extremely dangerous. They simply are doing the job they can for the little they can get.
Others who are much more fortunate often treat these people negligently, even abusively.
The endurance and sheer grit of these people, and the fact that their dreams and hungers are like everyone else's, is handsomely realized in the finale, in which they sing that everyone should have "Something to Point To."
The cast of "Working," in addition to acting and singing beautifully, brings an energy to this production that is tough and forthright.
There is not a note of self-pity or soft sentiment among them.
When the audience rose to a standing ovation last Saturday night, it was in recognition of a fine and moving experience.
"Working" by the Elden Street Players is playing through Aug. 18 at the Industrial Strength Theatre, 269 Sunset Business Park, Herndon. For tickets and information, call 709-0918.