It might be called Funny Money but there is nothing counterfeit about this production. It delivers exactly what it promises an hilarious comedy by Ray Cooney. The play is very, very funny. The most predictable thing about Funny Money is its unpredictability, with all the twists, turns and comic roundabouts you would expect from the genre. It is excellent farce that starts at full revs and cranks it up from there.
The entire show takes place in the living room of Henry and Jean Perkins’ London home. It is comfortable, English, middle class with just a touch of kitsch. Henry arrives home in a highly excited and agitated state. Life has just delivered him a way out of his mundane and meaningless existence. A switched brief case on the train trip home has provided the accountant with an unexpected windfall 735,000 pounds in used notes. Henry has made a decision.
“We’ll never get another chance like this as long as we live,” he tells Jean. He wants to take the money and run to a new, exciting life abroad. Jean isn’t convinced. She preferred her indecisive “wimp” of a husband and she’s not going anywhere. Close friends Vic and Betty are about to arrive for dinner to celebrate Henry’s birthday and that is her priority. Henry is more concerned about the briefcase’s original owner, “Mr Nasty”, obviously a villain who will come looking for them to recover his money. “Mr Nasty will cut you up into very little pieces and bury you in cement,” he warns Jean.
The pall of retribution underpins the play as Vic and Betty arrive for dinner and become embroiled in the shenanigans. As well as Mr Nasty, there is a Mr Big, a couple of coppers, and a London cabbie called Bill. It is a highly inflammable combination that offers plenty of scope for stretching credibility and grounding out the laughs.
The play is well cast with Gary Kliger (Henry) the standout performance. He is incredibly animated. His eyes bulge, his jaw drops, his head rolls. It is a high octane, high energy performance that sets the pace for his colleagues. Trisha Bromley (Jean) also does well while Robbie Montgomery’s body language sucks some bonus laughs out of “plain and simple Vic”.
It isn’t a perfect performance. There were fluffed lines here and there. Sometimes the helter-skelter efforts to lift the energy levels with action packed site gags missed the mark. Overall though there was so much action and so many gags you hardly noticed the imperfections. With the season running from 7 May to 28 June there is plenty of time to tinker at the edges and further tune a fine show.
One of the secrets to success in any business is to deliver exactly what your customers want. That being the case, StageDoor Dinner Theatre deserves a successful run with its latest offering. Funny Money is an excellent choice ideal for the venue, ideal for the intimate surroundings and ideal for a relaxed dinner audience that is eager to laugh and keen to engage the performers.
I’ve generally been cautious about theatre restaurants on the principle that they are neither fish nor fowl not really a restaurant not really a theatre. Funny Money has forced a rethink. The food was good. The show was first rate.