Money tells the story of an extremely wealthy young man, Harry Clay, who has never worked a day in his life. He has just met a woman named Cynthia Burgess, whom he instantly wants to marry, though he doesn’t yet know her name. While clearly flattered, she refuses to accept his proposal until he seeks a more meaningful path in life. Harry tries, he really does; he even goes so far as a prolonged attempt to land a job – any job! With Cynthia’s friend Bernie Bartok wary and jealous of Harry’s intrusions, and a fourth character, Mr. Mann, bounding in and out of over 20 different roles -- from waiter to corporation executive, from doctor to beggar, from nudist to grey-haired old lady -- Money is a fast-paced and funny commentary on the early 1960s, and the show remains fresh to this day.
This is the first professional NYC production of Money since its 1963 premiere at the Upstairs at the Downstairs, a bistro/theatre on W. 56th St. that, with This is the first professional NYC production of This is the first professional NYC production of Money since its 1963 premiere at the Upstairs at the Downstairs, a bistro/theatre on W. 56th St. that, with Money, added scripted musicals to what had previously been a steady performance diet of revues and cabaret presentations. This first production ran for a solid 214 performances.
Composer Sam Pottle and librettist-lyricists David Axlerod and Tom Whedon all had substantial careers in show business, mostly in television, having written, singly and in tandem, material for such iconic shows as The Sid Caesar Comedy Hour, The Dick Cavett Show, Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, The Electric Company, and The Golden Girls.
Undoubtedly influenced by the off-Broadway shot-in-the-arm that was 1960’s The Fantasticks, Money took on the brashness and daring of such other early-1960s titles as Stop the World I Want to Get Off, Beyond the Fringe, and the early James Bond movies -- a decided turn-away from the Rodgers & Hammerstein and Father Knows Best models that had characterized the 1950s and the Eisenhower years.
Money is surely among the handful of very best American musicals that is almost entirely unknown, not only to the theater-going public but also within the theatrical community itself. Even after 50 years, and despite its many topical pop-culture and socio-political references (such as Khruschev, the Edsel, and Colliers Magazine, to name only a few), the script remains remarkably fresh and modern-sounding. The score is amazingly inventive in forging a new, breezy sound for the musical theatre. It even includes -- fully within its overall tongue-in-cheek, spoofing manner -- an operetta-like parody, “The Philanthropist’s Progress: A Cautionary Cantata,” a 15-minute-long, through-sung number that takes satiric thrusts at so-called charitable institutions at the same time that it mimes such lofty 1950’s musical models as Candide, with which it obviously shares the main thrust of its story-line, and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.
Indeed, the theme of a young man seeking greater meaning in life informs not just Money and Candide, but also Pippin, now playing in town in a spectacular new production. While Money may employ less acrobatics than the current Pippin production, it has a much funnier script and snappier ending than either Candide or Pippin, with a wonderful final number that combines elements of pseudo-pomp, vaudeville, and even a cappella stylings.
Robin Rightmyer, Meg Kiley Smith, David Andrew Laws, Logan Keeler
Music: Sam Pottle
Director: Gerald Moshell
Producer: Stranger Productions
Choreographers: Julia Strong and Kari Sweeney
Set and Lighting Designer: Alexander Dancho
Graphic Designer: Francis Russo III
Publicist: Paul Siebold/Off Off PR