Extra Review: Monkeying around

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SOME musicals transcend their original material — or at the very least, open it up for a new audience to enjoy and claim as their own.

Monkee Business may not match Mamma Mia’s big screen success any time soon, but I would wager that the new show has a lot of mileage in it yet.

Simply put, it’s a playful take on the record label-formed boyband — familiar perhaps?

Yes, instead of a musical about the Monkees (who found fame as a band in the fictional TV programme of the same name), this is a musical about a band who are fooled into impersonating the Monkees on a worldwide tour.

Still with me? Good. The truth is, the plot’s thinner that it sounds — four boys set off on an adventure posing as the (other) fab four, taking in London, Paris, Tokyo and of course, Moscow, where they’re unwittingly embroiled in a world of Russian spies, secret agents and more than one love interest.

The best part about Peter Benedict’s script is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

From the odd reference to wafer-thin story developments (including a non-starter of a song intro that will have you cringing and laughing simultaneously) to the odd giggle provided by one band member’s musings about the future, most jokes are well-aimed.

Glasgow is the second city on the Monkee Business tour, and there might have been some nerves showing in act one – no errors, but a sense that the cast were tiptoeing through the material.

But by the second half, everyone on stage seemed to be having fun, speeding towards an amusing, if rushed finale in which all twists (plausible or otherwise) are revealed.

Special mention goes to Ben Evans as Chuck, posing as Davy Jones, who has the late musician’s jerky tambourine dance down to a tee.

All four of the would-be band members are likeable, and best of all, they sound pretty close to the originals.

The supporting cast are also impressive — in particular, Cassandra Compton as Mary Gray and Scarlette Douglas as the sulty traffic warden, both of whom put their considerable singing talents to two memorable solo songs.

And of course, the show hinges on comedy from Linal Haft as the scheming manager Joey Finkelstein — from donning a dress to rasping his way through Cuddly Toy, he’s a character to remember.

It may not be Shakespeare, but Monkee Business is a madcap, feel-good adventure through the swinging 60s.

Add in a sing-along of Daydream Believer to finish — and judging by an enthusiastic audience reaction from Glasgow, that’s no bad thing.

Rating: 3/5

Monkee Business runs at the King’s Theatre until Saturday. Performance at 7.30pm, and tickets are £19.50-39.50, available on 0844 871 7648.