Forum Theatre, Malvern – 15th July 2022
Reviewed by Courie Amado Juneau
The Monkees Tale is the brainchild of Producer John Hylton from Treble Clef Productions. It is a presentation of the Monkees rise, demise and rise again but told in a deliberately different way with the band’s story narrated by Jimmy Rafelson, “nephew” of Bob Rafelson – one of the Monkees original producers. Jimmy is very entertaining, regaling us with all the germane facts liberally laced with humour and audience participation. Basically it’s a Jimmy segment followed by 3 songs from the band and repeat till the end.
The band were simply fantastic and it was great to hear these classic songs played by, essentially, a classic band lineup.
Matty Murphy (playing Davy Jones) comes from an acting background and it shows as he was able to whip up the crowd and convincingly project Davy’s vaudeville routine – the wiggly legs, backward skating and blazer and boater routine which was always a part of the Monkees (see their Johnny Cash Show appearance). His vocals were strong and he was a real presence on stage, growing in stature as the evening went on.
It was a tad odd to see the bass and guitar roles reversed with Joshua Wade-Scriven (playing Peter Tork, but on the guitar) and Sam Brown (playing Michael Nesmith, but on bass). I tried hard to ignore this but couldn’t quite get past it, jarring my senses every so often – imagine seeing a Beatles band where Paul is playing guitar and George is on bass. To be fair they were both superb musicians and it was a visual aberration only – musically both were spot on. Jody Page (playing Micky Dolenz) was amazing on drums, giving us a powerhouse performance. The band is rounded out by Adam Bridges on keyboards providing all the other parts so that the hits sounded just as we fondly remember them.
The show is kind of like seeing the band in their early days but playing a small gig. I would have liked to have heard more from the band – I understand this was deliberate but perhaps a recreation of the original band’s onstage banter would have been welcome.
At heart this is a celebration of the music and what a songbook it is. The big guns were all present and correct: “Last Train To Clarkesville”, “Daydream Believer” and “I’m A Believer” but it was “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” which brought the house down!
It is not often that people are up on their feet and even less often when people are dancing in the aisles. Tonight there were people dancing down the front, all adding to the fantastic atmosphere of this marvellous show!
I’ve no doubt this show could develop into a classic and improve, going from strength to strength but even as it stands it provided a very pleasant Malvern Friday. I have no hesitation in wholeheartedly recommending this show. Kicks may keep getting harder to find but as Jimmy Rafelson would say “you’ll sure get a kick outta tonight’s show man!”.