Monopoly: Singing the Lives from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk
By: Paulanne Simmons
From its earliest beginnings in 16th century France, cabaret has always been the purlieu of writers and artists. So it should not be surprising that cabarets have always been subversive. Billie Roe must have had this in mind when she created her newest theme show, Monopoly: Singing the Lives from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk, which she brought to Don’t Tell Mama on Feb. 12
As anyone who has ever played Monopoly knows, Baltic Avenue is cheap and probably where the undesirables live, while Boardwalk is prime real estate. Thus Roe’s show becomes not only a means for her to tell the story family vacations and family rivalry but also the story of our nation’s struggles with class.
As directed by Mark Nadler, Roe is an excellent storyteller. Her vacations in upstate New York come alive, along with all the characters she creates to sing the songs: the aging Jewish woman, Sophie Gerstein; a hipster; a homeless woman.
Roe has chosen an eclectic mix of old and new songs. She begins very appropriately with Mark Mitchell’s “Cone on! Let’s Play Monopoly.” From there it’s not a huge jump to Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen’s Depression era “Raisin’ the Rent.”
Not surprisingly, many of the songs are about finances or the lack of them: Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money,” John Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son.” But Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song” and U2 Bono’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” are an apt reminder that the loss of love can be more painful than the lack of money.
Although Roe creates numerous characters, it is her own personality and her formidable pipes that dominate the show. Part actress, part singer, with a strong dose of the vixen, Roe makes us remember that the purpose of cabaret is not only to make us smile. It’s also supposed to make us think.
Don’t Tell Mama – 343 West 46 Street – 212 757-0788