Heeeeeeeeeeeyyyyy – a terrific new musical version of the popular TV series Happy Days is guaranteed to get feet tapping, hearts warmed, and is bound to rock the week through wherever it stops off.
You go along desperate to like this show. Its genesis was featured in the Channel 4 series The Sound of Musicals and producer Amy Anzel’s personal quest to get the show on the road and overcome the odds to make it a success is surely a story worthy of being turned into a musical itself. And with this being the 40th anniversary of the TV version’s original screening there can’t be anyone wishing this to be a flop.
The fabulous news is it’s a rip-roaring and tremendous success, a tribute to the original series and a fun-filled feelgood offering for newcomers. It’s a testament to Amy’s dedication, to writer Garry Marshall’s frothy story, to legendary composer Paul Williams’ uplifting score, to director/choreographer Andrew Wright’s enthusiasm, and to the bubbly and likeable cast that this new production makes its mark and sends audiences out smiling.
Producer Amy was seated at the back of the stalls beaming broadly throughout the first night at Brighton, and she has every reason to be proud of a great achievement.
Only in its second week on a national tour, the show already looks accomplished and comfortable with itself and it does everything in its power to sweep away the grey skies and bring in the blue. The television series might have tapped into 1950s American nostalgia but the joyous and memorable new musical unashamedly taps into the desire to have a good time.
Tackling the iconic role of The Fonz , Ben Freeman strolls through the role as though it was always intended that he should take over one day from the original Henry Winkler (who, incidentally, is creative consultant for the production). To steal a song lyric, he is a black belt in cool.
But it’s a show where every link is a strong and supportive one. Former Sugababe Heidi Range is a delightful revelation as Fonzie’s one-time girlfriend Pinky displaying acting charm and a powerful voice as she delivers one of the musical’s showstoppers, Legend in Leather.
As Marion Cunningham the wonderful Cheryl Baker is outstanding and she gets to share another showstopper (with Emma Harold’s Joanie) What I Dreamed Last Night. Although none of the cast tries to give a carbon copy of their TV counterparts (instead making each character their own) James Paterson’s Howard Cunningham is a real tribute to the late Tom Bosley.
Great stuff too from Scott Waugh as Richie Cunningham, Andrew Waldron as Ralph, Jason Winter as Potsie, and Eddie Myles as Chachi. Their Act 2 opener Run is another instant hit. And special thumbs-ups to Henry Davis and Sam Robinson, who show dance skill and comic timing with a range of colourful characters.
These Happy Days are definitely yours, mine, and anyone’s who fancies a family treat of a night out at the theatre. To put it simply, it’s Fonzierific!