Studs Terkel’s Seminal Book “Working” Brought to Life at Creative Cauldron

Studs Terkel’s Seminal Book “Working” Brought to Life at Creative Cauldron

Creative Cauldron
February 12, 2024
Jordan Wright
Special to The Zebra

Sally Imbriano, Erin Granfield, Molly Rumberger, Oscar Salvador, and Chelsea Majors (Photo/William T. Gallagher Photography)

Back in 1974 American writer/historian/actor/broadcaster, Studs Terkel, wrote a seminal book on ordinary workers. Its subtitle was “People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do”. A fascinating, deep dive into the often monotonous, constantly challenging lives of everyday American workers. I read it then and it changed my perspective on life and the people who are its driving force. That long lasting impression left me eager to see the musical produced by the small but mighty Creative Cauldron. Proudly celebrating its 22nd anniversary, the regional theater has been thrilling audiences with its often daring, always fascinating productions.

Directed by notable and Helen Hayes award-winning director Matt Conner, who has been commissioned by Creative Cauldron to write an original work for the next five years, Working is a project he has long had his sights on. The entire creative team is well-respected in local theater and includes Helen Hayes nominees Choreographer Stefan Sittig, Music Director Paige Rammelkamp and Lighting Designer Lynn Joslin.

Molly Rumberger, Sally Imbriano, Oscar Salvador, Tony Lemus, Chelsea Majors, and Erin Granfield (Photo/William T. Gallagher Photography)

Fourteen, storytelling, musical numbers by a six-person cast fill the small stage and keep the action moving swiftly as the cast delivers songs by notable songwriters Lin Manuel-MirandaStephen SchwartzJames TaylorMicki GrantMary RodgersSusan Birkenhead, and Craig Carnelia.

The stories they tell are moving and poignant. Conner has included videos of real-life locals including the Mayor of Falls Church, the building developer of their soon-to-be-completed, brand new theater, a local government agency retiree and an endearing series made up of local children talking about what they want to be when they grow up. The videos are interspersed within the music and connect us to the universal hopes and dreams of the workforces of the past, present and future.

Characters include Freddy Rodriguez, a fast-food delivery worker; Delores, a waitress, “It’s an art! I’m not just a waitress, I’m a one-woman show.”; Frank, an interstate trucker who doesn’t see much of his family until it’s too late; Rose, a third grade school teacher, “Everything has to be fun!” she declares as she deals with unruly students; Raj, a tech support guy; Rex, a hedge fund manager, “Unless you have winners you can’t have losers.”; Kate, a stay-at-home mom, “What I do only matters to three people.”; Grace, an assembly line millworker; Sharon, a receptionist, “I call it the land of no phone,”; Anthony, a stone mason; Utkarsh, an eldercare worker; Mike, a father longing for more family time; Maggie a cleaning woman; and Theresa, a nanny, raising other people’s children. Taken altogether they are a sea of dashed hopes and longings.

Sally Imbriano, Chelsea Majors, and Erin Granfield (Photo/William T. Gallagher Photography)

An energetic cast of six, plays numerous roles – gliding in and out of the many characters with ease. Treated as an ensemble, the playbill lists them by not assigning the performers to their individual roles. There are some fine performances by Molly RumbergerSally Imbriano and Erin Granfield. Other cast members include Tony LemusOscar Salvador and Chelsea Majors.

Scenic and Costume Design by Margie Jervis; Lighting Design by Lynn Joslin; terrific Video Projections and Lighting by James Morrison.

Through March 3rd at Creative Cauldron, 410 Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046 – For tickets and information call the box office at 703 436-9948 or visit

A Love Letter to Audrey Hepburn Premieres as Part of Creative Cauldron’s “Bold New Works” Series

A Love Letter to Audrey Hepburn Premieres as Part of Creative Cauldron’s “Bold New Works” Series

Audrey: The New Musical
Creative Cauldron
Jordan Wright
May 18, 2022
Special To The Zebra

Santiago Alfonzo Mesa and Rebecca Ballinger (Photo by William Gallagher)

Audrey: The New Musical is Danielle E. Moore’s paean to the late stage and screen star. Moore, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, is a young writer and producer whose ambitious project and fondness for Ms. Hepburn gave her the inspiration to create this musical based on the extraordinary life and fascinating relationships of the actress and noted humanitarian. Produced as part of Creative Cauldron’s “Regional Bold New Works” program, the production is directed by Laura Connors Hull who had her hands full putting in place a lot of moving parts from a large cast, tons of choreography by Morgan Arravillaga, and a host of musical numbers (for some unexplained reason unlisted in the program). That there is enough material in Hepburn’s life to form an entire show, of that there is no doubt. Yet the writer’s job of condensing her career while still including the many facets of her wartime experiences in Nazi-occupied Holland, appears monumental.

Front Row: Bianca Lipford, Rebecca Ballinger, Lindsey Jacobsen, Lenny Mendez Back Row: Santiago Alfonzo Meza, Ricky Drummond, Tyler Cramer. (Photo by William Gallagher)

As a young girl living under extraordinarily dangerous conditions Hepburn worked for the Dutch Resistance relaying messages to the opposition, even losing a member of her own noble family to the Nazis, all while studying for a career as a ballerina. Moore splits Audrey’s life in two presenting us with Audrey as the young ballet dancer (Morgan Arrivillaga) alongside her rise to Hollywood stardom and peppering the plot with a compilation of the many familiar faces of the period including her domineering husband, Spanish actor Mel Ferrer (Santiago Alfonzo Meca); William Holden (Ricky Drummond), a serial womanizer; Colette, the celebrated French writer who penned Gigi, Hepburn’s first Broadway show, and who wrote Ondine, one of Hepburn’s earliest film successes. Subsequent stars whirl in and out of her life – Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, Warner Brothers studio head, the bombastic Jack Warner and Edith Head (Bianca Lipford) who as one of the most famed costume designers in Hollywood designed many of Hepburn’s looks for film. Even Givenchy, the Paris fashion designer whose glamorous designs she wore both in an out of her films is featured as is Rex Harrison who starred with her in My Fair Lady which earned her a second Academy Award.

Rebecca Ballinger and Garrett Matthews (Photo by William Gallagher)

There’s a lot of Audrey’s life represented here including the constellation of celebrities she knew, all crammed into this musical about a woman whose career didn’t end on the stage and screen and who was beloved later in life as representative for UNICEF while traveling the globe on humanitarian missions. But the musical does feel like let’s-throw-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-on-the-stage and see what sticks. And that’s the dilemma. What’s important? What’s exciting? What yields the most drama/comedy/pathos/humor? It’s all here, and much of it is interesting. Lots to process. Yet, I’d prefer to see it pared down. Is a bit with Marilyn Monroe really necessary? Do we need to meet all those famous men in Audrey’s life? Too many to reflect on. Why toss in Ella Fitzgerald (Cynthis Davis) who appears in a Paris café for two numbers? What’s the point? There is enough material here for two separate musicals (I was relieved not to witness a reenactment of Audrey’s funeral). It’s a Herculean effort that needs refinement. But, wow! I was mightily impressed with the effort and felt if a more senior production team were involved, this could see a Broadway stage someday. The concept is very clever and the writing and research show that Moore has done her homework on her idol.


All that said, huge kudos to Costume Designer Margie Jervis, who does double duty as Scenic Designer, and whose elegant costumes in the My Fair Lady’s Ascot Races scene were spot on as well as creating the Givenchy (Tyler Cramer) look-alike dresses and a few 1950’s Edith Head designed costumes taken from Audrey’s films. Smaller details were noticeable in the props where period movie cameras and flashbulb-popping handheld cameras used by reporters in trench coats were perfectly retro. And an extra special shout-out to the Stage Manager (Nicholas J. Goodman) who had too many cues to count.

The locally known cast did a bang-up job on the small stage, but the star of the show was clearly the delightfully pixie-like Rebecca Ballinger who nailed Audrey’s clipped British accent and snappy repartee. So well-cast, she even had Audrey’s swan neck, feathery qualities and lithe figure.

Through June 4th at Creative Cauldron, 410 South Maple Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 436-9948 or visit