Micky Dolenz’s “A Little Bit Broadway, A Little Bit Rock And Roll” At 54 Below, Friday, March 24th, 2017, Reviewed
The Monkees split in two, Pete and Mike were alt rock stars in waiting, and Davy and Micky were show biz kids about to make good, and at 54 Below on Friday evening, Micky ended his “A Little Bit Broadway, A Little Bit Rock And Roll” with a song dedicated to the world he has spent 72 years pursuing. The song Micky performed was the Willy Wonka “Pure Imagination,” and he had a point, a point he made over and over over the 80 minute set: Micky is a child of show biz.
Looking every minute his age and yet a timeless, tall and handsome goof, at 54 Below, Dolenz’s screwball James Cagney and rock star persona met somewhere in the middle. And while there is a downside, though not a surprising downside, to it, no “She,” no “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,” and no “That Was Then, This Is Now,” it isn’t as though he was out of his element in the slightest. The best moments, a show stopping “Don’t Be The Bunny” (from “Urinetown”) and a sublime “But Not For Me,” were one part Broadway and one part American Songbook and no parts Monkee. The former, Micky learnt to audition with and over the years gleefully admits it has gotten him three three shows. His credits include “the Count’s Kid” and the Leafman in Harry Nilsson musical The Point! Charlemagne in a revival of the musical Pippin, Zoser in the Broadway production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, and Wilbur in the West End production of Hairspray, so he knows his way around the musical. Both of Dolenz’s parents were in the business, his mother Janelle Johnson was a vocalist in the big band era, his father George Dolenz, an actor and singer who starred in the 39-episode television series, The Count of Monte Cristo as the title character, Edmond Dantes.
Micky performed “But Not For Me” as a tribute to his late mother, and sang a verse in an imitation of his mother imitating Billie Holiday. He had the pull of the sweetest of parodies mixed with the deepest of nostalgia, later he would tribute his father with “Some Enchanted Evening” and also invite his sister Coco Dolenz on stage to perform “Daydream Believer,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” and “Crying In The Rain,” with him. For the rockers, the “Head” era “As We Go Along” was an instant classic.
But there was nothing not to like and admire here. Of the four Monkees, Dolenz is the best solo performer. Davy clowned about too much and Nesmith takes himself too seriously, and Peter Tork is just plain weird. But Dolenz has had a good life and he doles out the information with care and intelligence, though why he claimed that the Beatles were recording “Oh Darling” when he visited them in 1967, two years before Sir Paul wrote it, I can’t tell you. In the end, Micky sang the vocal cord ripping rockers guts out, so let’s forgive him.
In 2015, Mickey recorded this show for a live album (here) but I get a feeling it is better in 2017. Although we lost “Randy Scouse Git,” he streamlined the evening into a fine humming performance with a young, sharp band behind him, especially the keyboard player whose grand piano took up a lot of room on a very small stage, and deservedly so. The place was intimate in the extreme but Dolenz used his real estate with the skills 65 years will give you. Opening with “DW Washburn” and “Last Train To Clarksville” it was a huge come on for a peerless performance, and a story about the “de de de de” bridge was fascinating: apparently, Dolenz went straight from the set of the Monkees to the studio to record the song, and was so wiped out he begged off learning the lyric to the bridge so Boyce and Hart said, just sing “de de de”. “Mr. Cellophane” (from “Chicago”) came replete with a charming story about his daughter Ami back when she was ten years old. Not that it did get boring, but before it stood a chance, Dolenz threw in a “Pleasant Valley Sunday” or an “I’m A Believer” or, the penultimate “Going Down” taken at his breathtaking, proto-rap winking full tilt.
Micky has spent his career in this world of pure imagination and any time he wants to share it with us be sure to plunk your money down and watch him do it.