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During an interview, The Monkees‘ Micky Dolenz discussed memorizing the soundtracks of West Side Story and Oklahoma! Subsequently, he discussed how those albums influenced his work with The Monkees and beyond. Dolenz also mentioned his feelings about musicals in general.

Rita Moreno's character on the poster for 'West Side Story'
A poster for ‘West Side Story’ | GAB Archive/Redferns

The impact of ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Oklahoma!’

West Side Story is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet about gang warfare in 1950s New York City. Meanwhile, Oklahoma! is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a love triangle set in 1906. Those shows are two of the most famous musicals of their era.

According to the AARP, the West Side Story soundtrack became a huge hit. It spent 54 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. No other album spent as long at the top of that chart. At second place is Michael Jackson‘s Bad, which spent 37 weeks atop the Billboard 200.

On the other hand, Oklahoma! became a massive success in the United Kingdom. According to The Official Charts Company, the album spent three weeks atop the U.K. chart and a total of 162 weeks on the chart. Furthermore, those musicals impacted the world of entertainment long past their initial popularity. The film Oklahoma! was remade in 1999 starring Hugh Jackman, whereas Steven Spielberg remade West Side Story in 2021.

The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz and his sister memorized ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Oklahoma!’

During a 2010 interview with Goldmine, Dolenz discussed music that influenced him. He mentioned The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Johnny Mathis, Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Volume One: The Early Years, and more. Dolenz discussed the soundtracks of Oklahoma! and West Side Story.

“My father was the one who got me playing classical Spanish guitar, and then I went into folk music from that,” Dolenz recalled. “There again, that would have been an album that my mom or dad had around the house and played for my sister Coco and I. At one point, Coco and I memorized the entire score to both of these albums.”


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How musicals inspired the work of Micky Dolenz with The Monkees and beyond

Dolenz said listening to West Side Story and Oklahoma! was formative. “They had a big influence on me at the time,” he said. “I probably didn’t realize it at the time, but I certainly did in the future.”

Dolenz connected those musicals to his later work. “If you think about it, The Monkees show was sort of a half-hour Marx Brothers musical … they were half-hour musical theater,” he said. “Of course, later in life, I started doing musicals, and I realized how much I loved doing musicals and how much they influenced me.” Without two classic musicals, Dolenz’s career might not have been the same.