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Micky Dolenz‘s cabaret show at New York City’s 54 Below was billed “A Little Bit Broadway, a Little Bit Rock ‘N’ Roll.” But it might just as well been titled “A Little Bit for Me, A Little Bit for You.” Delivering exuberant versions of several classic Monkees hits interspersed with theatrical songs both familiar and relatively obscure, the still youthful 70-year-old singer performed with an obvious joy that proved infectious.
Of course, for fans of all ages it’s impossible to feel anything but joy while listening to such songs as “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer,” the latter of which was followed by Dolenz’s joking reminder to a child in the audience, “I sang that song long before Shrek.”
Accompanied by a youthful four-piece band and looking dapper in his pork pie hat, Dolenz displayed the charm and wit that’s endeared him to several generations. The show was liberally sprinkled with anecdotes providing amusing and moving context to the material. He told a story of trying and failing to go unrecognized while taking his young daughter ice-skating to introduce “Mister Cellophane” from the musical Chicago. Explaining that his father used to sing light opera, he delivered a heartfelt “Some Enchanted Evening,” after which he announced, “That’s for you, dad.” Dolenz revealed that he’s auditioned for musicals — he’s appeared in such shows as Aida, Hairspray and Pippin — with the song “Don’t Be the Bunny” from Urinetown. And he choked up while recounting his cross-country drive to see his future wife in NYC in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 before singing “One of the Good Guys” from the musical Closer Than Ever. Judging from the oohs and ahhs emanating from the audience, they seemed to agree with the sentiment.
With only occasional signs of strain, Dolenz’s voice remains remarkably intact, although he no longer sings “D.W. Washburn” in the original falsetto. That song, incidentally, bridged both of the show’s themes, being both a hit for the Monkees and later prominently featured in the Lieber and Stoller Broadway revue Smokey Joe’s Café.
True Monkees fans were rewarded with renditions of Dolenz’s own “Randy Scouse Git,” which he amusingly explained had to be released in England as “Alternative Title” because the original title was offensive to Liverpudlians, and “As We Go Along” from the cult movie Head, co-written by a young Jack Nicholson.
“Did I just drop that name?” he joked.
After his musical director Michael J. Moritz Jr. explained that “I’m a Believer” would be performed in a Broadway manner suitable for the club’s intimate, classy setting, Dolenz launched into a slowed-down, jazzy version which was quickly aborted.
“What’s scary is that there’s probably someone out there doing it like that,” he said before the band reverted to the familiar rocking arrangement.
Shortly after the opening notes of “Daydream Believer” he commented “Guess you recognize that one, huh? Well, don’t sing along, it puts me off.” That didn’t last for long, as he then welcomed the inevitable sing-along by the crowd that knew every word.
Generously paying tribute to the songwriters whose efforts made the Monkees so successful, including Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Neil Diamond and Neil Sedaka, Dolenz seemed more than comfortable with his original band’s musical legacy. The evening ended with “Goin‘ Down” from their psychedelically tinged album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd., sending the baby boomer audience out in a blissful wave of nostalgia.
Dolenz’s 54 Below run wraps on July 11.
Last Train to Clarksville
Don’t Be the Bunny
But Not For Me
As We Go Along
Randy Scouse Git
Some Enchanted Evening
I’m a Believer
Pleasant Valley Sunday
One of the Good Guys
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