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BWW Interview: Micky Dolenz Talks Upcoming Show, A MONKEES Musical & Much More!

On Thursday, August 27th, THE MONKEES band members Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork will reunite for a one-night only performance at Morristown, NJ's Mayo Performing Arts Center. (Click here for tickets and additional information)

Today, BWW speaks exclusively to Micky Dolenz about the upcoming show, his fondest memories of THE MONKEES television show, and what he thinks of the idea of a MONKEES-themed musical on Broadway!

You hail from a show-business family. Was there ever any question that you would become involved in the industry?

Well, it's the only thing I knew. My mother and father were both in the business, they met doing a play in Los Angeles. As a kid I thought everybody's father was an actor, I knew nothing else. But having said that, we didn't live the sort of normal showbiz life that you might hear about. It wasn't the typical Hollywood, Beverly Hills situation. I was born on a chicken ranch in Tarzana - sounds like a country song, doesn't it? (laughing) My father was from Italy and he was off the boat, my mother was from Texas, you know pretty down-home.

So certainly not a typical stage mom.

No, I don't really ever remember the whole stage-mom thing. I would visit the set and hang out with my dad and watch him get shot at in Westerns and stuff and that was our life. But at a very early age I guess, my parents must have said, 'Would you like to do this?'

Do you remember what your first acting job was?

The first thing that I did that I remember was a screen test for a movie that was going to be shot in Mexico, a feature film. It never got made because the Mexican government was overthrown, so they had to can the film. But I did the screen test at about six years old to play a little Mexican kid in the movie, which was about a magic bull or something like that, big plot! But I had my first taste of it and I remember it was fun. But I don't remember my parents ever pressuring me. And then of course when I was 10, the Circus Boy audition came along and again I remember when my mom first mentioned it to me I said, 'No I can't go, I have a baseball game with my friends.' But for some reason I did change my mind, so yes, from day one I followed in my parent's footsteps.

And actually, after high school, I wasn't really pursuing anything acting-wise, and I decided I was going to be an architect, and my friend and I started architectural drafting school. So that was my plan and if it didn't work out, I figured I could always fall back on show business.

You recently had a very successful solo show at New York City's 54 Below, where you really showed off your musical theater chops. How did it come about that you went from rock star to Broadway?

It's a good question. You have to understand, my mom was a singer during the Big Band Era and she did musicals, my father did musicals, music was always around our house, especially show tunes. The first album that I remember playing over and over again was Oklahoma, and then after that it was West Side Story. My sister and I would listen to this stuff for hours. It was always of an interest to me. I just didn't know how to get into it because I was out in L.A. which is mostly film and television and I knew that the theater world was mainly in New York. But shooting ahead, when the Monkees thing came along, of course it was a TV show about a rock group, but if the truth be known, the Monkees was much more like the Marx Brothers than say, The Beatles. In fact, it was John Lennon who first made that comparison, he said "I like the Monkees, they're like the Marx Brothers" and he was very accurate. It was a television show, about this imaginary group that lived in this imaginary beach house and had all these imaginary adventures, and yes, we did end up going on the road of course. In fact the closest thing that has come along lately like THE MONKEES genetically, would be GLEE, a show about an imaginary glee club, and the actors can actually all do that, they can all sing and act and dance and I understand they went on the road and did shows. So that's what it was, it was really like a little bit of musical theater on television, a little singing and dancing and silliness.

So in a way, THE MONKEES was your first musical theater experience.

Absolutely. And because of the success of the show and the name and such, I started to get offers. Back in the 70's I did a musical with Davy Jones called TOM SAWYER, a summer stock thing. And then in the '90's I went over to England and did the Harry Nilsson musical THE POINT. And then I just started getting lucky, especially in the 90's, I did GREASE on Broadway and the National Tour, and so from my perspective, it isn't that much of a stretch from what I've always done, which is singing and jumping around and acting like an idiot!

What do you think of the idea of MONKEES: THE MUSICAL? Can you see that happening?

Well it's been talked about for years and years and somebody's still talking about it till this day. You know I don't own the rights to the name, it's owned right now by Rhino Records and we're actually gearing up for the 50th Anniversary next year. You know I wrote a couple of the songs, but most of the songs were written by people like Carole King and Jerry Goffin and Neil Diamond and Boyce and Hart, very good writers. So to put something like that together, it really doesn't depend on me, even though I think it would be a great idea.

Can you give us a preview of what people can expect to hear and see at the Morristown Arts Center?

We sing all the hits and we do them as they were recorded and released. I always thought that was very important. And we have a few little surprises and we do a lot of multi-media, we always have. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, we were one of the very first to bring film to the stage, we had a huge movie screen all rolled up in the truck, and we unrolled it every night, and had 16mm projectors projecting film of the show and of us, so even back then we used multi-media. Of course there is a lot more of that now. So you'll see media from the '60's and Monkees stuff, and we of course acknowledge Davy, our friend Davy Jones. If you're a Monkees fan you will not be disappointed.

Was the chemistry among the four of you there from the very beginning of THE MONKEES TV show?

Well acting and comedy aside, absolutely. But that's also why they cast us. We went through a very extensive screen-test process that involved singing and playing instruments and acting and improvisation and interviews. It went on for quite a while, and funny enough, it reminds me now of how you do casting for a Broadway show, you have to sing, you have to dance, you have to do something from a scene. And of course, back then it was all on film on a sound stage.

So they casted like that because they wanted four guys who were different, yet had similarities, and could sing and act and play. So that was part of the process. I remember doing screen tests with Davy, because Davy and I had a lot in common because we were both child stars, him on Broadway and me on television. But we all hit it off very quickly.

What about from the music side of things?

It took a little longer from the music side because you may know the story, we weren't given a lot of choice on the music side of the equation. We would have loved to have been in the studio together recording but at the time they didn't think that was appropriate, so it took a while for us to get some of the control back, and then we started working in the studio together on an album called "Headquarters".

And the rest is history, as they say.

(Laughing) And the rest is history, as they say!

Click here for tickets and additional information on THE MONKEES appearance at the Mayo Performing Arts Center on Thursday, August 27th at 8 pm. Tickets are $49-99.

About THE MONKEES:

When four young men were cast in the television roles of a struggling rock band inspired by The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, few could have predicted the impact The Monkees would make on music and pop culture at large, an impact that still reverberates 50 years later.

Assembled in Los Angeles in 1965 by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider for the television series The Monkees, the quartet of Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and the late Davy Jones brought a singular mix of pop, rock, psychedelica, Broadway, and country to their music. The show itself, meanwhile, paid tribute not only to The Beatles, but also to the comedy stylings of The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy as well as the pop-art sensibilities of Warhol and the emerging San Francisco psychedelic scene.

The Monkees' first single, "Last Train to Clarksville," was released in August 1966, hitting #1 and serving as advance publicity for their series, which debuted on September 12. When the group's self-titled debut album arrived in stores a month later, it quickly headed for the top spot of the Billboard charts, where it would ultimately sit for 13 of the 78 weeks it remained in the Top 200. (Two decades later, in the midst of a new burst of Monkee-mania, The Monkees popped back onto the charts, bringing the total number of weeks to 102.)

By the time the group's TV series aired its final new episode on March 25, 1968, the Monkees had seen three further albums top the charts - More of the Monkees, Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., all of which were released in 1967, staggeringly enough - while racking up several more hit singles, with "I'm a Believer," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Words," "Daydream Believer," "Valleri," and "Tapioca Tundra" all finding their way into the Billboard Top 40.

After the series' two-season run, the group went on to star in the cult feature film HEAD (co-written by Jack Nicholson) and a TV special (33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee) while also continuing to record new material, but much as the '60s gave way to the '70s, the members of the Monkees eventually gave in to their individual musical interests and went their separate ways... for awhile.

In February 1986, after MTV broadcast a marathon of The Monkees, Dolenz, Jones, and Tork reunited for a 20th anniversary tour, with Nesmith joining them onstage for the Los Angeles date of the tour, and in 1996, all four members of the group reunited for a new album (Justus) and TV special (Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees).

In the wake of Jones's death on February 29, 2012, the surviving members of the Monkees reunited and performed a series concerts. The shows were greeted with sell-out response and phenomenal reviews. Now, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork carry on that tradition with a full evening of magic music and multi-media splendor, including clips from their Emmy Award winning series. Their new show features all of the Monkees hits, plus an intimate acoustic set and solo spots for each of the singers. This Evening With The Monkees is sure to please every fan of the band.

54 Below Photos courtesy of Genevieve Rafter Keddy


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