Take a well-known catalogue of music from a particular pop era, add a story, and you have yet another instant jukebox musical.
After all it worked for Mamma Mia, Buddy, Jersey Boys, even We Will Rock You. Perhaps, like the latter at least, the team behind Monkee Business are hoping that audiences will ultimately be carried along on a wave of affection for the music, rather than the story itself.
If that’s the case then some urgent remedial work is still needed here on a script that too often gets in the way of the songs.
The music of a band that was fabricated for a 60s TV series has been able to stand the test of time, not least due to some of it having been written by a succession of contemporary composers.
So why let it play second fiddle to a story that seeks to capture some of the anarchic comedy of the TV original, but instead too often treats the songs as excuses for a scene change?
From the outset Monkee Business is at pains to explain that its four central characters are not the band, but four lads recruited to impersonate them on a world tour. Presumably, with the originals’ image rights and brand protected, they can then get on with the story.
Confused? Well that’s nothing compared to a narrative that throws in every 60s icon it can think of, from Stepford Wives, via the Singing Nun, to a gaggle of spies.
The comedy comes corn-fed, fattened up through years of use, while the primary-coloured, animated adventures of the original band demand much more than flat scenery or a moving stage pavement.
When Monkee Business just occasionally subverts its own style, particularly in the second act, there are glimpses of what the show could become.
It continues here until April 14.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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