“Monday, Tuesday, Happy Days. Thursday, Friday Happy Days. The weekend comes, my cycle hums… ready to race to you.”
If you were a child of the 70s you will probably remember sitting in front of the TV (in the days of just 3 channels) and watching Happy Days with the rest of the family for 30 minutes of fun and The Fonz! The series set in the late 50s was a massive hit in the States and in the UK, making stars of its cast, which included Henry Winkler (The Fonz), Scott Baio (Chachi) and Ron Howard (Ritchie). It even got re run to audiences in the 90s for Channel 4 and 5 such was the demand for nostalgia.
Fast-forward to today and the stars may have faded (although Ron Howard has made a fair career for himself directing blockbusters such as Apollo 13) but Happy Days is making its 3rd comeback- this time as a piece of musical theatre!
“Exactamundo” as the Fonz would say.
In the UK tour former Emmerdale star Ben Freeman takes on the iconic role of the leather-clad mechanic Arthur Fonzerelli whilst the longest serving Sugababe Heidi Range plays Pinky, his Marilyn Monroe-esq squeeze.
Just like the TV show this is a sugar coated offering which at times is more sickly than a big bag of candy floss but whilst the show entertained within its short duration, expanding it to a 2 hour production on stage makes it feel a little laboured.
There’s some good performances put in by Ray Gardner as Arnold and James Paterson as Howard Cunningham, providing a lot of the laughs from the audience. Cheryl Baker is perfect as the wholesome and motherly Mrs C presenting an almost carbon copy of Marion Ross’ TV portrayal of the character. When she was in Bucks Fizz Baker was more known for her skirt ripping antics but after seeing her performance it definitely helps make your mind up that she can sing well too. Somebody snap her up as the next Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, she would be perfect!
Following in the footsteps of her former bandmate Jade McEwen (who is starring in the tour of the Rod Stewart musical ‘Tonight’s The Night’) Heidi puts in a more than capable performance as the sexy siren Pinky, who bears more than a passing similarity to Rizzo from Grease. Her vocals are spot on along with her acting (although I was a little unsure about her deep American accent which was so gruff Kathleen Turner would be proud).
The thing that really lets the performers down though are the 21 lack lustre original songs from music and lyricist Paul Williams, which come in abundance with each scene. The only point it manages to get you a little bit excited is at the beginning and the end when you hear the familiar beats of the catchy theme tune Happy Days – now if all of the tunes were like this we might have a hit on our hands.
Having watched Channel 4’s The Sound of Musicals and seen Producer Amy Anzel’s efforts to get this musical off the ground it feels quite hard to slate what she has delivered. All in all Happy Days is ok, it definitely works for audience members of a certain age but if she’s hoping to still take it to the West End as planned she will have to make more than a few changes here.
Happy Days runs at The Lowry till Saturday 28th June
Images by Nathan Cox