The show’s omnibus conceit is that we follow a 100-dollar bill’s acquisition from one stereotypical character to another. Benjamin Franklin appears representing the bill offering many of his enduring maxims, “Early to bed, early to rise…” He is unseen and unheard by those who possess him.
A hedge fund manager, a stripper and her unemployed gambler boyfriend, a fundamentalist reverend and his wife, an aspiring pop singer, a gay male couple seeking to adopt a child, a flamboyant hairstylist, a heavily accented Italian restaurant owner, and a snide CEO are among the gallery of cardboard characters that are depicted.
Fellow U.S. currency figures George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln also pop up for several numbers.
The genial Ralph Byers’ performance as Franklin is heroic as he is onstage for virtually the entire length of the show. Mr. Byers marvelously sings, dances and cracks wise, while channeling the familiar Franklin persona with his wry vocal delivery. Byers exudes dignity, serenity and focus despite the deficient material.
Sandra DeNise, Brennan Caldwell and George Merrick are the talented trio who swiftly portray the gallery of trite characters. They’re uniformly exuberant and suitably dramatic for the serious portions.
Watching this quartet courageously give 100% as joke after joke thuds as the show plods on is inspiring. However, their professionalism is not enough to rescue Money Talks from tedium.
Peter Kellogg’s book is collection of superficial sketches that has its stock characters caught in a series of clichéd predicaments. It’s all rendered with vast measures of saccharine as the show reaches a circular conclusion. Mr. Kellogg’s facile lyrics are no better, with arcane references such as Matthew Bourne. David Friedman’s decent music is a generic blend of pop and show tunes.
Michael Chase Gosselin’s direction is mostly basic entrances and exits. Several times black clad stagehands are on view to move cubes on wheels. This doesn’t look good and seems odd considering the production’s small scale. Mr. Gosselin’s choreography is slightly better and adds some needed zest.
Scenic designer Ann Beyersdorfer has the stage set with cubes on wheels and benches on wheels that for the most part allow for swift scene transitions. There are minimal props to indicate the various locales. Ido Levran’s projection design uses the back wall of the stage as a screen in the shape of The United States, with cute images shown of the different states where the action is taking place.
Catherine Clark’s lighting design, and Patrick LaChance’s sound design both add polish to the production.
Besides that green travesty, Vanessa Leuck’s other costumes are skillful but have a chintzy look, especially those of the currency characters. Bobbie Zlotnik’s wigs are accomplished, especially for Franklin.
In the 1942 Hollywood film Tales of Manhattan, an all-star cast performs in five separate stories that are each connected by following the new owner of a tailcoat. Other popular anthology films with similar linking devices include The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1967) and The Red Violin (1998).
The concept of Money Talks: The Musical is sound but it’s so devoid of wit, charm and successful humor that it’s interminable.
Money Talks: The Musical (through September 3, 2017)
New York Visceral Entertainment
The Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or visit http://www.moneytalksmusical.com
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission