This review of Billie Roe's Monopoly: Singing The Lives From Baltic Avenue To Boardwalk at The Metropolitan Room was written by Kathy Towson and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Monopoly: Singing The Lives From Baltic Avenue To Boardwalk
Written & Performed by Billie Roe
Directed by Mark Nadler
Musical Director: Steven Ray Watkins
Musical Arrangements by Steven Ray Watkins & Mark Nadler
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street
New York, New York 10010
Before I ever got to the performance, I was intrigued by the subject and was very curious about how the Monopoly game would be "played" in this show. I sat down to a thoughtful and professional Reviewer's Worksheet. Billie Roe made a timely entrance at 7:05 p.m. and was immediately greeted by thunderous applause from friends and/or fans who have known about this multi-award-winning performer and her equally much-awarded accompanist, Steven Ray Watkins and director, Mark Nadler.
We are then given the charming background story of the show's theme, about how she and her family would always play Monopoly at their grandparents' summer camp, culminating in the final night's exhibition game, specifically the very important one in 1963 where Ms. Roe had been determined to beat her siblings. Ms. Roe tells us that through the game she learned the values of communication, negotiation and most importantly - financial responsibility, which she very humorously explained "comes in handy since I work in 'affordable housing'" and, more specifically, how to bankrupt your opponents (also known as, "How to run for President").
She builds a story line between the songs, leading us around the Monopoly board of real estate, showing how the colors correspond to the differences in social status. She exercises her acting chops by playing different characters representing various classes: the upper crust Mrs. Bibbs, the middle-class protester Rose, the lower class Sophie Gernstein, and Homeless Woman. These story lines serve as segues between the songs and, for the most part, make for smooth transitions but in a few places, such as from the first to the second song, there were some awkward pauses between tunes. Additionally, when she tried to quickly switch between Mrs. Bibbs and Homeless Woman during a Community Chest segment, or portray a Hipster who was supposed to be a male character during a Marvin Gardens segment, the portrayals were often not audible and fell short. However, I do appreciate all the stories and when weaved together as a whole, they make some very important political and social statements.
I have to admit I am not a fan of "talked" songs such as was applied to Yellow Beach Umbrella and when Ms. Roe tried a hip-hop version of Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here as Mrs. Bibbs trying to "pull in the younger constituents," it proved to be vocally challenging. I did thoroughly enjoy her duet with her very talented accompanist, Steven Ray Watkins, of Easy Money, her rousing rendition of More Money, and the very poignant moments of the Homeless Woman's Kiss Me, Sophie's September Song and Rose's Dance With My Father, which better suited her vocal range and quality. I also enjoyed her encore number Where The Streets Have No Name, which topped off the evening with a touching, emotional finish.
As a whole, although I found the theme somewhat interesting, I felt the dialogue portion of the evening could have been shortened since it often lacked the ability to hold my attention. Ms. Roe has an impressive voice when she chooses the more straight-forward, non-modernized music, and, if she is trying to showcase her acting abilities, such is already very evident in her interpretation of the songs. I hope she will edit out some of the dialogue in favor of an additional song or two.
I applaud Ms. Roe for a very unique and clever idea.