The world premiere of Happy Days the Musical opened last night at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre.
Based on the popular 70’s US TV show (which has it’s first television broadcast 40 years ago today), the musical tells the story of Arnold’s, everyone’s favourite diner that is in danger of being torn down to make way for a new shopping mall, unless they can raise enough money to outbid The buyers. To raise the money they seek help from local celebrity Pinky (Heidi Range) who is back in town (an old love interest of Fonzies) to judge a dance contest at Arnold’s. When this only raises a small portion of the money needed, Fonzie is challenged to a wrestling match by his enemies the Mariachi brothers. Will he fight and save Arnold’s? Will he admit his weakness to everyone or will he simply run away and leave Arnold’s in turmoil?
The set of Happy Days the Musical was good. Looking at the whole stage from a distance, I wondered if the idea was for it to look like an old jukebox but I couldn’t decide! The choreography (by Andrew Wright) was incredible and the ensemble are all to be credited for their dance moves (including some rather risky dancing whilst dribbling basketballs). Costumes were bright, colourful and perfectly fitting with the 1950’s era.
Ben Freeman (who most recently finished playing Fiyero in Wicked) stood out as Fonzie, having his voice and movements down almost perfectly. Cheryl Baker was loveable as Mrs Cunningham and coped well when a piece of set continued to move when it shouldn’t have. Her singing was good and her comedy Buck’s Fizz moment went down a storm with the audience!
I felt Fonzies epiphany scene, where he is visited by his two idols (Elvis and James Dean) was a little insensitive, when Elvis offered to take James Dean for a burger, but insisted he drive them (when James Dean died in a car accident).
There are some cheesy moments in the show including the pie dance and protest line ‘pie pie keep Arnold’s alive’ and jokes like ‘Denise and Denephews’ had me hanging my head in despair but the audience seemed to like it!
Happy Days the Musical is a nice show that will do well around the UK with local town crowds who remember the TV show. Whether it has a strong enough storyline and memorable enough songs to make it to the west end, I am not quite so sure.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
To see full UK tour dates for Happy Days the Musical click here
Read my interview with producer Amy Anzel here