Sunday, July 30, 2017

Review of "Money Talks"

The new musical romp, Money Talks, has a fun premise as we follow a $100 bill, the one with Ben Franklin’s face front and center, and see its impact on individuals as it is passed from person to person.  But the piece of currency that is continually forked over is not just a C-Note, but Ben Franklin himself.  In the guise of actor Ralph Byers, dressed regally in a monetary suit, Mr. Franklin gives the audience a running commentary on his journeys in addition to an endless stream of his witty, humorous maxims.   
The cast of "Money Talks" at the Davenport Theater Off-Broadway.

After a jaunty opening number by the four-person cast, each wardrobed as a different denomination of legal tender, the trek begins when a hedge fund manager passes the $100 bill to a stripper, which her slacker husband then “borrows” for a poker tournament in Las Vegas and so on and so on.  The 90 minute odyssey ends at the beginning as loose ends from some of the more charming and absorbing stories are neatly brought to a close.

The book by Peter Kellogg, who also contributed lyrics to the score, is a sometimes serious, more lighthearted meditation on the meaning of money.  The show has numerous scenes, some better conceived and more engaging than others.  They are broken up with tuneful songs by composer David Friedman and Mr. Kellogg.  They encompass amusing compositions, pleasing ballads, a gospel tune, and even a rollicking hoedown.
The cast of "Money Talks" at the Davenport Theater Off-Broadway.

The cast, led by Ralph Byers as a befuddled, still wise Benjamin Franklin, is a likeable, seasoned group of professionals.  The other three members of the troupe--Sandra DeNise, Brennan Caldwell, and George Merrick—take on numerous roles throughout the musical demonstrating their comedic abilities as well as a more penetrating presence.

Director/Choreographer Michael Chase Gosselin keeps the pacing brisk, skillfully incorporating the sage Ben Franklin without weighing down the storyline.  He has the quartet of actors working together nimbly as a well-oiled ensemble and smoothly breaks up the show with the occasional small-scale production number. 

Ann Beyersdorfer’s Scenic Design, while minimally conceived for the pocket-sized Davenport Theatre stage, feels full and robust.  She is amply assisted by Ido Levran’s whimsical Projections, which add a highly satisfying component to the show.  They help establish the setting for each vignette and adroitly move the action from scene to scene.

Money Talks, a bouncy, entertaining piece of merriment.

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