When the school year ends, David Roth and Kerry Long don’t stop working.
After directing Staples Players’ 2 mainstage productions and a host of Black Box Theater shows, they turn their attention to the very popular summer musical.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the directors’ summer show. For the hard-working, very creative Roth and Long — and the equally hard-working and very talented Staples Players cast and crew — the selection is appropriate:
On July 20, 21 and 22, more than 50 students — from recent alumni to rising freshmen — will stage the sprawling, toe-tapping adaptation of Studs Terkel’s 1972 book. Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Godspell,” “Pippin”), James Taylor and Lin-Manuel Miranda contributed the music.
Using real words of actual people, the production takes an intimate look at the struggles and joys of a variety of Americans: factory workers, millworkers, project managers, cleaning ladies, masons, stay-at-home moms. Using a style similar to “A Chorus Line,” “Working” weaves together the stories of nearly 40 laborers over the course of one workday.
It’s a fascinating show, and it resonates for many reasons.
For one, it’s timely. As America debates all aspects of work — lost mining jobs, jobs moved overseas, how to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist, gender stereotypes and roles, you name it — Miranda’s latest revision is compellingly relevant. As much as we talk about work, we seldom explore the meaning we get from whatever we do.
For another, Roth has wanted to direct the show since he was 16. He was a junior at Staples, and applied to present it as a studio production. Al Pia chose a senior’s project instead.
For a third, it’s a musical that engages the 55 actors and 20 tech members. Freed from the pressures of schoolwork, they’re spending this summer totally devoted to something they love.
Summer shows draw together a wider range of ages than school-year productions. During the month of rehearsals and set construction they form strong bonds — essential to an ensemble work like “Working.”
Younger ones learn what it means to be a Staples Player. Older ones mentor them.
Christian Melhuish graduated last year, and is studying musical theater at Temple University. June graduate Jacob Leaf is headed to Northwestern. Both have roles onstage, and help Roth and Long as acting coaches.
For hours every day since school ended, dozens of teenagers have been hard at work. Their job: producing a show that seems effortless, while offering insights, inspiration, and tons of entertainment.
They’ve done it all for free. After all, they’re Staples Players.
But if they were getting paid, everyone would deserve a huge raise.
(“Working” will be performed Thursday, July 20; Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m., with a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 22, in the Staples High School auditorium. Click here for tickets. Tickets may also be available at the door 30 minutes prior to each show.)