Have you looked at a $100 bill lately? The face of Benjamin Franklin peers knowingly at us, and “Money Talks: The Musical” cleverly focuses on Franklin as the symbol of the feverish quest for money. Played intelligently and whimsically by Ralph Byers, he is passed around from person to person in transaction after transaction, and interacts accordingly, occasionally spouting wry observances or aphorisms.
Although seriously needing cutting of a few less appealing sequences to make a tighter, shorter production, “Money Talks: The Musical” is largely clever, entertaining and winningly performed by its talented cast of four who turn up in a variety of roles. The show has book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, music and composition by David Friedman, with music direction and arrangement by David Hancock Turner, and direction and choreography by Michael Chase Gosselin.
The opening number is catchy, with the cast as Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln turning up looking through openings in enlarged bills representing the denominations on which they appear and singing “I’m Money.” Songs include Franklin and the others singing such satirical jabs as “The World Runs on Money” and “Give, Give, Give to the Lord”
The three other performers in addition to Byers are Sandra DeNise, Brennan Caldwell and George Merrick. They keep turning up as different characters in assorted guises and are all superb in their singing and amusing portrayals.
DeNise, for example, is especially impressive in her range, whether playing a stripper, a housewife or singing “Dumb Blonde” as a sexy-looking blonde who slyly uses the prejudices against her to outfox opponents at a card table on a competitive gaming show.
Ann Beyersdorfer’s set design provides a nifty background on the small stage of the Davenport Theatre, where the musical is premiering. It is a huge, bright panel of squares that together suggest the map of the United States, with projections (design by Ido Levran) providing a multitude of images.
The show seems overextended, and as noted above, would be much snappier if some of the less impressive relationship sketches were trimmed. But the overall cleverness and good nature, abetted by the thoroughly enjoyable acting and singing, carry appeal. At the Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th Street. Tickets at Telecharge.com. Reviewed July 24, 2017.