He may have a few more wrinkles and the paunch may be a little more developed, but there’s no mistaking Micky Dolenz.
The cheeky grin remains firmly in place, and he still possesses the wicked sense of humour and charisma that won him legions of fans as singer and drummer with Sixties boyband, The Monkees.
And the exuberant American is revisiting the Swinging Sixties for his current incarnation, starring as the loveable and somewhat zany Wilbur Turnblad in the smash hit musical Hairspray.
Playing to sell-out crowds at Bristol Hippodrome, Hairspray is a fun-packed, music- filled show boasting vibrant sets and costumes and an incredibly talented cast, including a fabulous, befrocked Michael Ball as Micky’s larger- than-life wife Edna.
“I gotta tell you, Michael is an absolute joy to work with,” Micky tells me in his all-American drawl. “He’s so very, very talented and is such a nice, funny guy.”
Set in 1962 America, the show follows chubby teenager Tracy Turnblad, who wants to achieve her ambition to sing and dance on the Corny Collins TV show, despite the fact that she’s carrying a few extra pounds. The show has been a smash hit on both sides of the pond, largely due to the way it splices a joyful celebration of bubblegum teen pop with the issues of black segregation and an obsession with weight and beauty.
“There’s no such thing as the perfect formula – if there was, there would never be a flop,” explains Micky. “But having a dramatic theme is a big factor. Segregation is the core of this show; it’s all about prejudice of one sort or another. You may not think it is important in a musical comedy but it really is. All the hit musicals have this dramatic core. Look at Mamma Mia! – people call it a jukebox musical, but if you look at the story, it’s about a young girl trying to find her father, and then there’s West Side Story, which is basically Romeo and Juliet.”
Micky admits that recreating the early Sixties on stage in Hairspray has taken him back to his days as a music-mad teen.
“The show’s set in 1962, and back then I was watching those very dance shows that are in Hairspray. We all tuned into Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, plus every town had a regional show. My musical preferences at that time tended to be hardcore rock ‘n’ roll. My big influences were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Louis and early Elvis Presley… before the leisure suit Elvis.
“I loved the original rock ‘n’ roll, in fact my audition piece to join The Monkees was Johnny B Goode.”
It was in 1965 that Micky successfully auditioned for a new TV show about a rock and roll band, The Monkees. The series was a huge success and the group sold more than 65 million albums and with such immortal hits as Daydream Believer, Last Train to Clarksville, I’m a Believer and (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone, The Monkees provided the soundtrack to teenage lives on both sides of the Atlantic from the Sixties onwards. The series ran for only two years, but was popular enough to make Dolenz and his fellow Monkees – Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork – international stars.
“There’s no accounting for taste, is there?” jokes Micky.
Recalling the day he realised the impact the series was having, the singer tells me: “The first time I got a good inkling of how successful the records and the TV show had been was just after the show had come on air and the record was at No 1.
“We were in the studios 12 hours a day at that time and didn’t really get out much, but they gave us a week off to go Christmas shopping. I went to my local mall, which I had been going to since I was a kid. Suddenly, I heard these screams as people started running at me. I thought there was a fire, so I hauled open the door and started yelling ‘This way! The fire exit’s this way!’, but it was me they were running at. I never got my Christmas shopping done.”
Now Micky can relive the mania again as, despite being of pensionable age, he, Peter and little Davy are reforming for a 45th anniversary UK tour (Mike Nesmith, who inherited a fortune, “doesn’t like to tour”).
“Just 10 days after I finish Hairspray, I fly back to the States to start rehearsals and then we head back to Liverpool to start the tour,” says the star, who also directed and produced the Eighties comedy series, Metal Mickey. “We tend to come together every 10 or 12 years due to the demand of our fans. We’re all free agents – there’s no ‘Monkee Business’, so to speak – so we come together when we can. I’m looking forward to Monkee-ing around again.” – Source