"Total Monkee Business". "Go chimpan-see it". "Your aunt says it's a daydream! Believe her!". Now that we have a few of inevitable puns out of the way, let's get down to the serious business of critiquing the latest jukebox musical to find a dusty old CD in its loft and say "Me too!".
Four swinging teens are hired by an unscrupulous manager to pose as the eponymous band, appearing as the Monkees in a promotional tour across Europe, falling in love with every pretty girl who crosses their path and making enemies of a sexy Soviet femme fatale who could crack open a bottle of Smirnoff with her teeth.
What opens as a enjoyably kitsch and self-aware pastiche of the sixties quickly becomes an unnecessarily complex world of spies and spooks, lacking the style of Austin Powers or the satisfying ending of another Scooby Doo mystery. Much of the humour in Peter Benedict's script falls as flat as the hair under Mike Nesmith's bobble-hat and, whilst it is understandably trying to reflect the tv show, the show has little emotional depth.
A pantomime plot and script of cringeworthy gags are somewhat forgivable, though not theatrically inspiring, in a musical based on the songs and scenarios of this madcap series. It is difficult to feel such mercy when looking at Morgan Large's set and costume design. Embarrassingly small set pieces are wheeled on like afterthoughts; larger pieces creak like a walk up to the gallows and swing with expected results. The budget looks as if it has been blown on two or three more complex pieces and, as a consequence, leaves the stage disappointingly bare.
The show's greatest decoration is its cast. Stephen Kirkwan, Ben Evans, Tom Parsons and Oliver Saville are great as the Other Fab Four of sixties pop, injecting energy and enthusiasm into the evening in the musical numbers. Lionel Haft finds genuinely well-delivered humour in a weakly funny script. Roxanne Palmer, too, is hilarious as a stewardess of "The British Airline" and steals the scene wherever she appears.
The cast are this show's greatest asset. The rest of the show feels like a child monkeying around (last pun) on a stage which is far too big for him.