Greed is entertaining, educational, witty and a relatively good time at the theater. The self-proclaimed musical for our time stars Julia Burrows, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, James Donegan and Neal Mayer. Together these top notch actors—and I do mean top notch—explore greed through a variety of characters which include Pope Francis and Lance Armstrong.
In creative/quirky scenes the actors put on quite the high energy show where they all bring their A game—each one of them possessing the “it factor”. The voices of Burrows, D’Abruzzo, Donegan and Mayer are what every composer dreams of. They are rich, well controlled, blend well together and cover different ranges. Seriously, someone needs to pat Stephanie Klapper on the back for her perfect casting.
The musical discusses topics like corrupt doctors, Ponzi schemes and more through cleverly written songs like ‘”When I Saw the Doctor” and “I’ll Cheat on My Taxes”. Michael Roberts is able to mash serious topics within lyrics with comedic touches to raise greed awareness. He has an ear for chord progressions and harmonies, sometimes transitioning into non-typical/unexpected combinations.
Throughout the show there are “bet you didn’t know” segments. In this portion, a character reaches into a bowl and reads factual instances of greed that the crowd isn’t expect to know. For example, Walt Disney and how he makes 100 times the amount of his maid.
Facts are piled on in every musical number and I’m talking heavy hit after hit—some of them hard to swallow and uncomfortable. For example the performers dared to talk religion, shining light on greed and power within the church. There’s just something about watching the performers dance around in the number “God’s Work”, especially the Pope. It creates an unsettling feeling but the scene isn’t malicious. Some of the songs leave you not knowing what to feel, maybe that’s because they reveal just how sad the world really is.
The entire space is used well and it is clear that director, Christopher Scott, paid attention to every detail. All elements from costume design by Dustin Ross, scenic design by Josh Iacovelli and lighting design by Joan Racho-Jansen are well balanced.
That said, the 90 minute show gets old about 50-60 minutes in, due to the absence of a strong plot. Though there is a lot going on, there is nothing really happening—it’s a bunch of fine rehearsed scenes placed together. The show does feel like it can be much larger—depth wise—than it currently is.
If structured plot is your main “thing” that you look for when visiting the theater, you may want to think twice before buying a ticket. However, the talent in this production is reason enough to watch at least one time.
Upon leaving the theater, I overheard someone describe the work as an Aesop fable. After thinking on it a bit, I agree to some extent. There is much to take away from this musical especially the last number “Remember”. The song follows a scene in which a gold digger (Julia Burrows) murders her husband (Neal Mayer) in the hospital. It urges the crowd to remember the important things and not join in the evil acts of the world.
Greed is showing at the New World Stages/Stage 2 (340 West 50th Street).
Greed: Book, music & Lyrics by Michael Roberts. Directed by Christopher Scott.
With: Julia Burrows (actress), Stephanie D’Abruzzo (Actress), James Donegan (Actor), Neal Mayer (Actor), Russell Arden Koplin (Women’s Understudy), Josh Iacovelli (Scenic Design), Dustin Cross (costume design), Joan Racho-Jansen (Lighting Design), Raymond D Schilke (Sound Designer), Stephanie Klapper (Casting), Kevin Greene (Production Stage Manager), EKTM (General Management), David Gersten and Associates (Press presentations), Steven gross (Music direction and Arrangements/Piano), Glenn Rihan (Drums/Percussion) and Eric Krebs (Producer).