Having attended Monkee Business-the Musical’s press launch earlier this year I had a fair idea of what might be on the cards when it opened at Manchester’s Opera House…a family show filled with tunes the audience want to sing along to.
Just call me ‘Mystic Meg’ as when the World Premiere came to town earlier this week to start it’s 14 day run my predictions were right. From the show opening to the strains of the famous Monkees theme tune to the poignant finale of Daydream Believer you can’t help but hum away to the sounds of one of the most successful boybands of our time.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a biopic of how The Monkees achieved their stardom, it’s not. Yes, the story is set in the swinging 60s at the time The Monkees were at the height of their fame, but it follows 4 naïve guys who are conned into impersonating them by a Jimmy Durante-esq music promoter Joel Finklestein (Linal Haft). The quartet agree to stand in for the boyband on their World tour and over the next 2 and half hours that the show runs they embark on madcap adventures that wouldn’t look out of place in an Austin Powers film.
Admittedly it’s probably not every theatre-goers cup of tea (and I’m talking of the snobby ones here)…Wicked it ain’t but entertaining it is.
The 4 leads Ben Evans (Chuck posing as Davy), Stephen Kirwan (Andy posing as Micky), Tom Parsons (Mark posing as Mike) and Oliver Savile (posing as Peter) have really done their homework on The Monkees, mastering their famous mannerisms to a t – in particular Evans does a cracking mimic of Davy Jones’ dancing. It’s evident the guys have really gelled during their rehearsal period and their harmonies sound wonderful, especially in Forget that Girl.
What lets the show down for me is Morgan Large’s set design, which for the first 20 minutes is particularly sparse making the actors look ‘lost’. Large has tried to keep it minimal with a psychedelic backdrop and very little else. It isn’t until the show reaches the number The Girl I Knew Somewhere that part of an aeroplane is wheeled onto the stage and the set design begins to ramp up and compliment the madcap action.
There’s some lovely performances put in by the supporting cast who work their socks off donning a variety a roles. Roxanne Palmer brings the house down with her hilarious portrayal of a snotty stewardess and delights as an Irish Singing Nun!
A great cameo is also given by Lee-Honey Jones as the singing telegram boy who gets carried away by the sentiments of the note he delivers. Campness to the hilt!
In parts the show does need a little tightening and tweaking but let’s not forget it’s still early days for the production as our Manchester audiences are being treated to it’s premiere, which of course leaves room for future changes.
The run here is especially touching as it was dedicated to Openshaw’s finest Monkee, Davy Jones, who sadly passed away last month. It was great to see some of his family in the audience enjoying the fitting tribute to one of the people who has helped put Manchester on the map.
To all of the non ‘Believers’ out there…take ‘The Last Train to Clarkesville’ and loosen up a little in this ever so serious world. Go hunt out old Monkees TV show footage on Youtube and you’ll get the same zany and crazy essence this show eminates. Monkee Business managed to sprinkle it’s magic on the majority of the audience though, receiving a standing ovation.
RUNS AT MANCHESTER’S OPERA HOUSE TILL APRIL 14TH