Davy Jones as Artful Dodger in 'Oliver!' and other stage turns
Before Davy Jones became the most wee Monkee in 1966 and the object of Marsha Brady's crush five years later, he was a star of the stage. Playing the Artful Dodger in the musical "Oliver!" Jones rode his success all the way from London's West End to Broadway, nabbing a Tony award nomination in 1963.
In a YouTube video, Jones kicks off "I'd do Anything" as the Dodger in 1964, nattily dressed -- especially for a thief -- in a capelet and top hat.
Davy Jones died of a heart attack in Florida on Wednesday. The singer-actor, who was 66, had been scheduled to perform Monkees songs at the La Mirada Theatre on March 31.
Hailing from Manchester, England, Jones had already cut his teeth at the tender age of 11 on a popular BBC soap, "Coronation Street," but it was his role as the Artful Dodger that brought him on "The Ed Sullivan Show" the same night the Beatles made their explosive debut.
It was an auspicious encounter that would set Jones' agenda for the rest of his life. In the book "Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan’s America" Jones recalls the frenzy: “I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.”
Jones' success as the rogue pickpocket also brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which created the Monkees, clearly designed after the Fab Four. He might've only been 5 feet 3 but that didn't bother millions of American girls, who, much like the eldest Brady daughter, pined for the show's version of Paul McCartney, replete with a British accent.
The theater, particularly the classic based on Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," continued to be good to Jones throughout his career. In 1989, he was cast as Fagin, the elder crime master, in a Miami Beach-area production of "Oliver!" According to his website, he also starred in productions of "The Boyfriend," Harry Nilsson’s "The Point," and appeared as Jesus in "Godspell," which played in the West End.
In 1995, Jones talked to the Times' Susan King about his turn as the slick deejay Vince Fontaine in a traveling production of "Grease." Though many of his fellow Monkees were theater stars as well -- Micky Dolenz, for instance, appeared on the London stage in "Hairpsray" in 2010 -- Jones thought he and his bandmates might still be pulling in audiences who hadn't ventured to the theater before.
"I think people have an image of the theater of being something that you go to wearing a bow tie and tuxedo," Jones said. "It is a little unfamiliar. I am not revolutionizing theater by appearing in it. I am adding, just as David Cassidy and Donny Osmond and a lot of the sort of teen heartthrobs, a few more bottoms on the seats."
As a band, the Monkees reunited on stage from time to time, in an attempt to capture some of their old chemistry. The band's most recent tour, in 2011 for their 45th anniversary, saw Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork travel across the North America and the U.K. The tour was cut short, due to internal group issues and business conflicts, according to individual statements from the band members.
But in 1995, Jones spoke highly of his old bandmates. "We work well on stage. Micky and I were in Vegas over Labor Day weekend. We played the Sands Hotel. We packed them in and the place went bonkers. We are not some obscure mid-'60s group that came and went. The Monkees touched a lot of people."
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo: Davy Jones performing with the Monkees in 2001. Credit: Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT