A group of people sat together in a room and decided that the new musical Monkee Business that is currently playing in Manchester as part of the ‘Manchester Gets it First’ campaign was a good idea.
I have to tell them that they were wrong.
This new musical featuring songs of The Monkees (and a few other random songs thrown in from the era) is probably one of the most inept shows to hit the big stage in a long time - and I have seen some clunkers, from Good Vibrations to Dracula the Musical, Rent Remixed to Peggy Sue Got Married.
Peter Benedict's book tells the story of a Monkees tribute band who are offered the chance of a life time posing as the real Monkees on a world tour since the real group are far too busy to do it, but before you can say ‘plot holes’ and ‘bad writing’ the group are caught up in a spy plot including the KGB, nuns and a dead raven.
But the jokes are dire and dated and raised barely a titter from the audience I watched the show with, there are so many holes in the plot that you start to think they missed a few scenes out, and characters come and go in the blink of an eye.
Worse still is the failure to fit the music in to the show: each song is pretty much announced to the audience and three characters have names that match song titles or lyrics so the songs can ‘fit in’.
However, the four leading men, Stephen Kirwan, Ben Evans, Tom Parsons and Oliver Savile, work hard to keep your attention, singing incredibly well together and manage to perfectly recreate the sound of the band. The unfortunate Cassandra Compton as Mary is wasting her talent in a thankless role, and I also have to take my hat off to the band who sounded superb and brought the fun songs of The Monkees to life.
After the success of Ghost the Musical in Manchester last year it’s a shame that this is what is following it up, the talented leads deserve so much better, as do The Monkees - and the audience who are paying to see this.
Monkee Business is at Manchester Opera House and on tour.