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Happy Days: A New Musical
a Musical
by Book by Garry Marshall, Music & Lyrics by Paul Wiliams

COMPANY : Broadway Across America [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 3351

SHOWING : March 31, 2009 - April 05, 2009



Goodbye gray skies, hello blue! Happy days are here again with Richie, Potsie, Ralph Malph and the unforgettable "king of cool" Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli. Based on the hit Paramount Pictures' television series, HAPPY DAYS – A New Musical reintroduces one of America's best loved families, the Cunninghams, and the days of 1959 Milwaukee complete with varsity sweaters, hula hoops, and jukebox sock-hoppin'.

The famed drive-in malt shop and number one hang-out, Arnold's, is in danger of demolition, so the gang teams up to save it with a dance contest and tv-worthy wrestling match. This perfectly family-friendly musical will have you rockin' and rollin' all week long!

HAPPY DAYS – A New Musical has a book by the legendary Garry Marshall. Music and Lyrics by Oscar winning composer Paul Williams. Directed by Gordon Greenberg. Music Arrangements and Music Supervision by John McDaniel. Choreographed by Michele Lynch.

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Whoa! Not Quite an "AAAAAAAY!"
by Dedalus
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The TV sitcom “Happy Days” was a fun diversion into ‘50’s nostalgia. I’m talking about the sort of nostalgia for an era we only imagined, that never really existed, that maybe we remember only through the filters of childhood recollections. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, “Happy Days: The New Musical” (will they change the name once it’s been around for a few years?) is a fun diversion into TV nostalgia (and not, as I assumed none of you suspected, a song-filled adaptation of the Samuel Beckett play). It doesn’t evoke the ‘50’s as much as it evokes familiar characters and situations. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Bland hero Richie Cunningham comes to us to tell of his final months in his hometown of Milwaukee Wisconsin. It’s 1959, and old hang-out Arnold’s is being demolished to make way for something called a “mall.” Arthur Fonzarelli is feeling his age and baby sister Joanie is feeling her oats. Obviously this is a situation that Richie can’t “solve in a half hour.” Well, he could if it weren’t for all those songs.

Therein lies my chief problem with the show. I admit to being a fan of Paul Williams’ music (“Phantom of the Paradise” and “Bugsy Malone” are two of my all-time favorite movie musicals), and here, there enough good tunes to keep the show humming along. The problem is, with few exceptions, they don’t strike me as particularly fifties-ish, or for that matter, particularly necessary. In most cases, they don’t advance the plot so much as stop it in its tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I liked most of them (especially “Guys Like Us,” a trio Fonzie sings with Elvis, James Dean, and a white-robed gospel choir). But they were definitely closer in spirit to “Bye Bye Birdie” than to “Be-Bop-A-Luma.” And, I don’t know, the sight of Fonzie singing a schmaltzy love song like “Dancing on the Moon” to Pinky Tuscadero, is just, well, wrong in so many ways (though the lyric “If you look long enough, I know I’ll find you” may be pure Fonz).

Another problem was that this cast spent a lot of time trying to mimic the original cast and too little time finding their own ways into the characters. Again, because this is a “tribute” show, there should have been nothing wrong with that. Indeed Joey Sorge makes a very credible Fonz, and he almost makes the “growing up” work. But I can’t help think it would have been even more credible if he had found aspects of the character that didn’t channel Henry Winkler. And the “new” characters, the Malachi Brothers, were cartoon villains who feel out of place and not nearly as funny as they seem to think they are.

For me, the standout in the cast was Felicia Finley’s Pinky Tuscadero. The role has been beefed up out of proportion to her contribution to the original series, and that’s good. Ms. Finley has a strong belt voice and looks great in hot pants, but she isn’t afraid to show us hints of a softer edge, a person who could conceivably “housebreak” Fonzie. She has a wonderful duet with Mrs. Cunningham (a warm and spunky Cynthia Ferrer) in which the two fantasize about changing “roles,” and it’s a joy to watch.

And that’s one of the actual appeals of this show – the moment it stops holding back and goes “over the top.” The gospel choir of “Guys Like Us,” the outrageous silliness of “Leopards Are We,” the sappy double entendres of “Hot Love” (in the mouths of the clean-cut guys, no less) were all giddy and inspired and were much more memorable than the groan-worthy mis-steps (the not-very-credible dilemma that drives the plot, the slow-motion badly choreographed wrestling match, that final love song). And centering the story on Fonzie and Pinky rather than on Richie and his growing pains was also the right choice. (Indeed Steven Booth’s Richie almost disappears, despite being the narrator and supposed “keeper of the memories” we’re watching.)

The set was fine and functional – I really liked the ground row of identical suburban houses that framed every scene, and the scen changes were quick and smooth. The lights were bright and bouncy without being distracting. But, once again, the Fox’s sound engineers inflicted a badly mixed and distortedly over-amplified soundscape that too often sounded ugly and incomprehensible.

Of course, if you were a fan of the show (as I was), you will probably find a lot to like about this musical. It’s a nice visit to some old friends having a new adventure. It’s even a “tying up of loose ends” for those of us who stopped watching after the show “jumped the shark.” It has some good (if oddly inappropriate) songs, some very funny laugh-lines, a lot of energetically athletic chorography, some very attractive singers in hot pants, and, what could be a star-making performance by Ms. Finley.

And that makes this show, if not quite an “A,” a definite “Aaaaaaay!”

-- Brad Rudy (



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