A wave of nostalgia engulfed the Churchill Theatre Bromley last night, when the UK tour of Happy Days – a new musical kicked of its UK tour, some 40 years after the series was first broadcast. Many theatre fans will be aware of the tour and its determined young producer Amy Anzel through Channel 4’s series The Sound of Musicals. Many questioned whether the beloved series from the seventies and eighties could be transformed into a musical.
Transforming iconic characters and the vocabulary of an international hit series and capturing ten years of history that is well known to your audience is no easy feat. Book writer and original series creator Garry Marshall has ensured that the characters in the musical have stayed true to their television counterparts. Small references to television plot points are sometimes included strengthening holes in the musical’s plot which is a little weak, but this is of little importance as the audience seem to be enjoying going back to a simpler time and reliving memories with characters they know and love.
Making his directorial debut Andrew Wright has put together a simple functional production that works because it doesn’t overshadow the characters. They dance, sing and genuinely seem to be having a great time and it’s infectious!
Taking on the role of The Fonz is Ben Freeman. Over-flowing bravado, style and charisma, there’s no doubting that both show creators and the original Fonz himself Henry Winkler, should be pleased with this incarnation. Ben manages to capture the inner integrity of a character that was a role model for a generation of kids.
Standout performances from James Paterson (Howard Cunningham), Emma Harrold (Joanie Cunningham), Jason Winter (Potsie Weber) and Andrew Waldron (Ralph Malph), really had me convinced at times we were watching the original series cast.
The show though for many of those in attendance belonged to the sensational Cheryl Baker as Marion Cunningham. Played as very much the housewife with heart, Cheryl’s act two number What I Dreamed Last Night where the Happy Days women dream of image swaps with their counterparts bought the house down.
Don’t go to Happy Days expecting a juke box musical full of well known hits. This is a nostalgic trip back in time to relive happier times with well-loved characters and in that respect it succeeds in droves. Relive the magic – these really are Happy Days!