Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Happy Days" Lives On -- On Stage!

Maybe you already know about this, but hit 1970s sitcom Happy Days has been turned into a stage musical by creator Garry Marshall, with music and lyrics by Paul Williams. It's doing a run at a Toronto theatre hence lots of Canadian coverage, but the show is touring all over the U.S. -- it started its run in La Mirada last October and at least for the next six months might be at a venue near you.

Happy Days seems to have lost some of its TV lustre, although it was always well-done, not particularly hilarious maybe (except in its formative first year or two, especially the filmed episodes without audiences), but a good show with agreeable actors -- Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, et al -- and always a solid sense of values and an appreciation for the comforts of home. It seems a good fit for a big family-oriented stage musical, with familiar characters and a presold concept that should work for aging baby boomers and their offspring.

From the photos, Happy Days A New Musical looks like a Bye Bye Birdie-ish romp, with Arthur Fonzarelli -- The Fonz -- taking center stage as he struts his stuff and finds love with Pinky Tuscadero, the dynamic female motorcycle ace who appeared in several episodes of the series. Set in 1959 Milwaukee, the Happy Days musical brings back Richie, Joanie, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, Chachi, Arnold, Potsie Weber and Ralph Malph in a probably not exactly Pinter-esque tale of love, song and saving the local burger hangout.

If I sound snide, I don't mean to be. I think this is a delightful revival of a terrific TV show, and something that will resonate with many theatregoers, and perhaps turn non-theatregoers into customers. It's certainly as valid as turning animated movies into stage shows on Broadway, or even a less-than-truly-classic movie musical like White Christmas (which really has only one famous song) into a stage extravaganza.

Reading the synopsis, I was happy to see a scene between Marion Cunningham and the Fonz -- Arthur to "Mrs. C" -- because their special and perhaps unlikely friendship was a sweet part of the show and one of the more endearing Happy Days relationships.

If you're a fan of the show, click on the links to read recent interviews with Garry Marshall, and be sure to visit the official website of Happy Days A New Musical. Garry Marshall obviously takes a lot of pride and interest in this new incarnation of his hit show, and that's a good sign. We wish them luck!

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