Book, Music and Lyrics: Michael Roberts
Director: Christopher Scott
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
While the lesson we’re supposed to walk away from this show with is ‘Greed is not good’, that is unfortunately how one could also describe Greed: A Musical for Our Times.
More of a musical revue than a musical, we take a journey through various incarnations of greed, though always greed for financial gain. Attempting to tackle such societal issues as conspicuous consumption, crooked bankers, religion, and steroids in professional sports—all valid concerns and with the potential for some deep mining—the show stays unfortunately close to the surface. Such a superficial exploration of these topics could be aided by well-placed humor, as the show is intended to be satirical, but more often than not the jokes fall flat. Lacklustre execution of choreography does little to keep Greed exciting.
The show tries to have an arc, even without a traditional narrative (which probably would have made for a more engaging script). A baby, played as a sort of puppet version of performer Neal Mayer, sings the opening number. The final number – the second reprise of the opening song – revolves around a dying man. In that, we have the life cycle, though there is no through line with the rest of the numbers that supports this trope. There are four interludes throughout, during which each actor takes his/her turn in pulling a piece of paper out of a fish bowl, and imparting to the audience a random fact pertaining to, for example, corporate greed. At a certain point, one is simply waiting for the fish bowl to be empty because that means the show is almost over, and the oddly tacked on final song about hope, optimism, and people behaving generously is just around the corner.
Lighting and costume design, by Joan Racho-Jansen and Dustin Cross respectively, play an integral rôle in setting the tone. Since the set pieces are limited to a few bright green chairs with wheels, and the sort of cart you’d see used by hotel employees transporting room service, lights and costumes are the main creators of each new world. While the costumes are fun, and often funny, they are not on par with an Off-Broadway show, whose ticket prices imply a larger budget than your local high school musical. Lighting was well designed and poorly executed. There seemed to be multiple missed cues, primarily on the main spotlight.
Two stereotypical female characters – the welfare-dependant mom and the trophy wife – leave a lingering taste of misogyny in the mouth. Additionally, the welfare mother singing about having another child just to get more money is dressed in a fringed white leather jacket and speaks with a highly affected southern or Texan accent, which counteracts any strength that number may have had. Again, failed satire simply comes off as uncompassionate and judgemental.
Toward the top of the show, the first time the fourth wall is broken, performer James Donegan addresses the audience with the rhetorical query of why these actors would be in a show about greed. The punch line that follows is that they’re in the show “because [they’re] paid to be.” Sadly, there’s probably more than a little truth to that sentiment.
Photo: Carôle Rosegg | Runs until: Open ended