I don’t particularly approve of the current trend for cobbling together a piece of musical theatre by plundering the back catalogue of a well-known group or artist.
Monkee Business is a piece of musical theatre that has been cobbled together from the back catalogue of 1960s ‘boy band’ The Monkees. A totally bonkers plot involving doppelgängers and spies provides the shaky backdrop on which the songs are hung. It’s all rather more Austin Powers than James Bond.
And yet, despite myself, I found the experience strangely enjoyable.
The score was definitely the star of the show and included all of the hits: I’m a Believer, Last Train to Clarksville, Another Pleasant Valley Sunday, Daydream Believer, Hey Hey We’re The Monkees. The four young actors playing The Monkees lookalikes—Stephen Kirwan, Ben Evans, Tom Parsons and Oliver Saville—were vocally spot-on, especially in their harmonies. They were accompanied by a live band, which is always a plus.
The female cast members did their best with the material they’d been given. The BOAC air hostess (Roxanne Palmer) was hilarious, while Linal Haft provided some corny old-school laughs as the band’s conniving agent.
Despite making very little sense, the plot was admittedly in keeping with the antics of The Monkees eponymous TV show. The knowing asides to the audience were well-received and the running gag involving Peter Tork had a satisfying punchline. The encore provided a poignant tribute to band member Davy Jones, who sadly passed away in February.
If any aspect of the production let Monkee Business down, it was the lack-lustre design. The staging was decidedly low-rent and (dare I say?) looked like something that the local amateur dramatics society had rustled up. The moving pavement was clever but for the most part the stage seemed drab and unfinished (I could even see the tape ‘markers’ from where I sat in the dress circle of Glasgow’s King’s Theatre). The 1960s was a colourful time in all senses of the word. Apart from some token psychedelia, Monkee Business didn’t really embrace the opportunity to capture the look and feel of the era.
Back catalogue musicals Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You have enjoyed phenomenal international success. Will Monkee Business be the next big thing? I doubt it. Is it worth seeing? Well, if you like your musical theatre on the light side and/or you’re a fan of The Monkees and/or you enjoy a good singalong, then Monkee Business is probably worth a punt.
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