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Talking Jobs, Songs, and Working With Helen Hunt, Christopher Jackson, and More

Meet the stars of the newly revised Working: A Musical, opening the Encores! Off-Center summer season.

To kick off its 2019 summer season, New York City Center's Encores! Off-Center series is premiering a newly revised edition of the documentary musical Working, with a book by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso. Based on Studs Terkel's 1974 book of the same title, which investigates the meaning of "work" for different people under vastly different circumstances, Working features an eclectic score penned by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, and James Taylor. Lin-Manuel Miranda added two songs for a 2012 revival, and for this new production, director Anne Kauffman will incorporate oral histories from City Center's own staff to celebrate the theater's 75th anniversary.

In keeping with the source material, we asked the Encores! Off-Center cast about their favorite jobs and the importance of Working in 2019.


(© Jack Guy/Corbis Outline, provided by New York City Center)

Helen Hunt

Why should people see Working?
It's got not one of the best composers, but eight of the best composers who ever wrote music. It's a dream team cast, as I'm surrounded by Hamilton and In the Heights alums. And it's not like any other show. I heard composer Stephen Schwartz describe it as a documentary. He had a desire to make a documentary musical. I can't think of another one of those.

What made you interested in the project?
I've been interested in it since the '70s when it first came out. My daughter did a production of it this year, so the music has been in my house for a full calendar year now. And I'm singing a song written by my family's closest friend, Mary Rodgers. I grew up with her sons. My father and Mary's husband were drafted together. And my daughter and [Mary's son] Alec Guettel's daughters are friends, so it's three generations of real friendship. To get to stand up there and sing it is pretty meaningful to me.


(© David Gordon)

Javier Muñoz

What is the best job you've ever had, onstage or off?
I started a theater company with some friends in the East Bay, in Northern California. We did a summer of On the Town and Cabaret in rep. We just had the most incredible time. That was my absolute favorite.

What is your favorite song or score by one of the Working composers that isn't from this show?
There are so many to choose from! This is totally because of the experience I had with the show and the dear, precious memories I have: "Champagne" from In the Heights.


(© David Gordon)

Tracie Thoms

How is Working relevant in 2019?
Often, people can think of the theater as this far-removed, elitist experience. But this show connects the theater world to the idea of the hardworking American from all walks of life, from the businessman to the cleaning lady to the millworker. It's just beautiful portraits of real people, and the way these composers can capture the life of a real person through these songs is really incredible.

What is the best job you've ever had, onstage or off?
People always ask me about my favorite gig, and I say Rent. It was my first big movie and I got to know all these people I was obsessed with, because I was a Renthead. But Death Proof was also amazing, because I got to work with Quentin Tarantino and go to stunt school and learn how to stunt drive. I've been really lucky.


(© David Gordon)

Christopher Jackson

What is your favorite song or score by one of the Working composers that isn't from this show?
The Wicked score, pretty much. Godspell. Stephen Schwartz, obviously, is an incredible composer and I love him. There's a Puerto Rican dude who's got a couple of songs in this. He's got a few I'm fond of, too.

What is the best job you've ever had, onstage or off?
Oh, my god. In the Heights.


(© Thomas A. Wright, provided by New York City Center)

Mateo Ferro

What is your favorite song or score by one of the Working composers that isn't from this show?
I'm gonna be biased and pick one of Lin's. "When You're Home" has to be my favorite. It's crazy because Chris Jackson is right here in front of me, and he sang it in In the Heights.

Why should people see Working?
The writers and the music are crazy good. To be in a room with these people is the dream come true.


(© David Gordon)

David Garrison

How is Working relevant in 2019? It's interesting to watch how the show has changed over the years, and how new material has added to the depth of understanding of the things Studs Terkel was trying to get at in 1974. If you think of all the changes between then and now, and how the world has shrunk and expanded, it's mostly been blue-collar workers who have been affected. The entire global economy is changing in a way that puts so many livelihoods in question. We need to understand what working people are feeling more today than ever before.

What is your favorite song or score by one of the Working composers that isn't from this show?
My Rolodex is spinning wildly from Once Upon a Mattress to Your Arms Too Short to Box With God to Pippin to Hamilton, and I don't want to offend anyone. But I'll say "Sweet Baby James" by James Taylor.

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