Home / Musical / Monkee Business – Opera House, Manchester

Monkee Business – Opera House, Manchester

Writer: Peter Benedict

Music: The Monkees

Director: David Taylor

Reviewer: John Roberts


Just over a year ago, ATG and the Opera House in Manchester launched their first production (The phenomenal Ghost the Musical )as part of an ongoing campaign to support new writing “Manchester Gets It First.” A much welcomed and critically applauded decision, however their latest production Monkee Business lacks almost every element that made Ghost the Musical the box office success it was.

Jukebox musicals are now unfortunately ten-a-penny. No doubt fans of Davy Jones et all will have applauded the decision to create a show based around the songs of 1960s manufactured pop group The Monkees, but unlike previous big-hitters of the genre; Mama Mia and We Will Rock You – Monkee Business has a little to endear it past its short limited 3 stop tour. In fact judging by those taking the seats in the second half, it had little to endear it to the obvious amount of leavers too.

The show is billed as ‘A zany Austin Powers-esque comedy musical” and the plot certainly has the ability to eventually become that with its spy based sub plot running throughout – however in order for this to happen, a new writer needs to come on board and quickly. Peter Benedict’s script is laden with Jokes so old and so bad that all too often they fall flat, and the plot is so thin it is almost transparent. A group of look-a-likes are tasked with replacing the original band on a world tour due to the group’s heavy filming schedule, which sees them on a whistle stop tour of the world, almost so whistle stop that if you blink you may just miss them.

Director David Taylor does little to fill or indeed engage his audience, the show’s direction is messy and ideas are over used, which would be fine if they actually worked. Instead Taylor allows his quite obviously talented cast to go on a mugging fest, trying to squeeze what little bit of humour is found in the script almost to its last breath, and sprinkle that with self referential looking to the past or is that future or present? It just exposes the scripts weak points and indeed confuse the audience. Add to the mix lacklustre choreography by David Morgan, which is in need of serious tightening up – sloppy lines and out of time dancers have no excuse for a show less than a week old, and leaves little in the show to be desired.

However it must be said, that the music is the shows strength, the assembled leads really lifting the show. Ben Evans (Chuck posing as Davy), Stephen Kirwan (Andy posing as Micky), Tom Parsons (Mark posing as Mike) and Oliver Savile (posing as Peter) do a fantastic job of recreating the sound of the Monkees but the show is stolen by Cassie Compton, whose rendition of ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ brings the house down, and Lee Honey-Jones who ignites the theatre with a comic and touching rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Free.’

Despite the strength of the cast and the stylised 60s inspired set by Morgan Large, there is nothing redeeming about this damp squib of a show, which is a crying shame as it shows real promise but for now I’m just not a believer.

Photo: Phil Tragen

Runs until 14th April 2012

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  1. I agree. Saw this 2 nights ago.
    The singing was great – I’m not a Monkees fan and never will be because the songs irritate me, but the way they were sang was terrific.

    But, yes, the plot itself is terrible and the sub plot is even worse and has more holes than my old man’s pants.

  2. I feel that the poster of this comment has absolutely no appreciation of what The Monkees were created for – it is clearly a homage to the much loved series which will forever be a fond part of many peoples youth …

    . This is not a ‘ten a penny juke box musical’ It is, in my opinion a stage reflection of the true spirit of the show I saw and loved in its original form

    . ‘The Monkees’ fans are not just Davy fans …

    . This show can’t be compared to other (possibly bigger budget?) shows as it is clearly formatted to recreate the light-hearted and innocent humour that the series gave us – a hit in this respect!

    . I agree that anyone wanting a deep intellectual storyline may be disappointed but .. hey .. hey … this is the Monkees!

    Any Monkees fans will love this .. it is light-hearted and funny .. yes, it’s cheesy but so was the show

  3. Dreadful show – and i had free tickets so thank god i didn’t pay a penny!
    Terrible story, poor set (or lack of), not a patch on similar musicals such as jersey boys and to be honest i thought i would have related to the monkees better but this is an awful show.
    Don’t go!!!

  4. I have to agree with the reviewer here, I saw the show on it’s World Premiere last Friday night and was so disappointed by what I saw. I used to watch the Monkees and listened to their music so I hope I can be classed as a fan, and as a fan it disappointed me more I think than if I hadn’t heard of the Monkees.

    The whole production just looked cheap and very amateur from my point of view. The story was poor and it just did not seem to flow very well. I can’t take anything away from the performers however, all four leads were strong vocally but with little other content to work with they were limited to just singing.

    I witnessed people leaving at the interval of the show which is not good for any show and if it is to continue after its initial tour a huge re write is needed at the very least.

  5. I have to agree with all the negative comments. I was undecided about whether to buy a ticket for this show so when I got the chance of free tickets I decided to take along a few friends. The first thing that struck me was how empty the stage was…there was very little set & the occassional addition of a wooden cut out made the production look cheap & amateurish. The plot was extremely thin & trying to recreate the old Monkees T.V show just didn’t work. Many people left at the interval including my friends commenting they had seen better sets at amateur productions. I decided to stick it out & wasn’t surprised when in the second half one of the flimsy lollipop props fell apart & ended up in the orchestra pit. If I had paid to see such rubbish I would have demanded a refund & a show of this quality would not be able 2 command average theatre prices never mind premium prices in London. The 4 main performances however were excellent & it’s such a shame they didn’t have a better vehicle to showcase their talents.

  6. Having seen Monkee Business twice, once on a free ticket offer and the second time having sadly already paid, I can’t disagree with anything in the review. A wonderful cast of performers with proven West End pedigree make what they can of the material available in a show that only briefly flickers to life during certain songs before being shot dead (almost literally at one point) by the ridiculously weak script. Yes, I love The Monkees songs and I am of an age where I have seen the TV series (albeit on their sixth or seventh repeats….I’m not that old!)so I do appreciate that this show is a homage to the slightly surreal nature of those shows. Unfortunately, even trying to reflect that, the script with its thin jokes stretched over overlong and slowly paced scenes, fails in every respect.

  7. Saw the show on Tuesday night thank goodness it was a free ticket.And have to agree with what everyone else is saying not worth paying to go. I know Davy used to jump about and do silly things but Ben Evans looked like he had a broom stick up his back. I stuck it out to the end but I noticed a lot of people left at half time. I am glad I did as Cassie Crompton really lifted the scene and for me stole the show with her Dusty Springfield song ” You don’t have to say you love me” out of all the performers Cassie is the only one I would go and see again

  8. Absolutely loved it! been twice and cant believe people got free tickets for it and then slag it off! Give me some free tickets and I’ll go again! Yes the set was a bit sparse but the actors were fab! The 4 main characters were amazing and sang unbelievably and to be honest i enjoyed virtually all of the other characters equally entertaining especially the russian girl, nun/air hostess and the telegram guy! Just loved it and came away feeling happy just like watching the Monkees themselves.

  9. I’ve been to see lots of shows and this has to be one of the worse I’ve ever seen. It lacks energy from start to finish with poor gags, which were poorly delivered, a poor set and to top it off a poor storyline preformed by a less than mediocre cast.

    The 4 lead guys ‘The Monkees’ however did work well together and were good singers, however they need to work on their comic timing, as they were at times upstaged by other cast members, namely the Stewardess and Telegram boy, which to me were two of the highlights of the show and even managed more than just a polite applause.

    The choreography was weak as were the dancers who weren’t together, lacked timing, and at times were not even on the same beat. The male dancers were very weak and lacked any strength in their movements. I was hoping for some big dance routines but they never materialised which is a shame as this would have given the show the desperately needed energy it lacked.

    In general this show is anything but professional and is more akin to something you’d expect to see at an all-inclusive resort in Turkey, Spain or Greece.

    In it’s present format I can’t see it doing it’s rounds again, which is a shame as it has the potential to be a great show. “London here we come” NOT!

  10. I was really disappointed with the show the storyline was weak and I didnt feel the lead guys were that great either. I felt very ripped off as my tickets were £50 each !

  11. I think I must have gone to a different theatre because everyone around me was enjoying it as much as me and my friends. The only thing I agree with is the set or lack of it was a bit disappointing but everything else was great. I loved the stepford wives dance and there were lots of surprises and clever things like the telegram boy singing the message and the beefeater trying to cue I’m a Believer. The twists in the last scene had us all laughing out loud. The cast were first rate and the singing faultless. I am sitting here with one of the friends who came with me and we cant understand the criticisms.

  12. Like lots people posting comments I was a fan of the TV shaow and it’s zany humour I even liked the songs after all some where penned by Neil Diamond. I paid to see this rubbish and yes the set was practically non existant but I wish some of the cast where too. Pehaps by the time the show reached Glasgow the Troup (get it monkeys) realised that the Monkee Business needed renamed Turkee Business.