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Money Talks: The Musical

A 100 dollar bill’s acquisition from one stereotypical character to another is depicted in this dull musical. Benjamin Franklin appears as the bill.

George Merrick as Washington, Ralph Byers as Franklin, Brennan Caldwell as Lincoln and Sandra DeNise as Hamilton in a scene from “Money Talks: The Musical” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniels)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

An actor silently portraying a bush wears a ghastly green costume and certifies Money Talks: The Musical’s descent into irredeemable awfulness. He’s in a body suit festooned with streamers with his face slightly visible. This occurs 25 minutes into this dull musical’s straight through, one hour and 40 minute running time. It’s not a case of it’s so bad it’s good. It’s just bad.

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.

George Merrick, Sandra DeNise, Brennan Caldwell and Ralph Byers as Franklin in a scene from “Money Talks: The Musical” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniels)

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.

Ralph Byers as Franklin watches as George Merrick, Brennan Caldwell and Sandra DeNise play poker in a scene from “Money Talks: The Musical” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniels)

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

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (377 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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