Writer: Garry Marshall
Director: Andrew Wright
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
Southampton came alive to the sounds of “Goodbye grey skies hello blue” last night when it opened its doors to Happy Days: A New Musical. Based on the award winning US TV show of the same name, this show tells the story of the Cunningham family and the Fonz in 1950s Milwaukee attempting to save their local diner Arnold’s, from becoming a parking lot.
With the leading rôle of The Fonz played by Ben Freeman there was a distinct lack of the charisma expected from this iconic character. Although he does a decent job there is definitely something lacking in his performance; not quite as sharp, not quite as funny and not quite as cool as the TV character played by Henry Winkler. However, the show is really about the ladies in the cast. Heidi Range turns in a solid performance as Pinky Tuscadero and once in full flow shows her skill as a singer as well as an actress. Cheryl Baker as Mrs Cunningham is an absolute revelation; she is funny, sang superbly and has a real likeability about her. With a not so subtle nod to her time in Buck Fizz she even manages to have her skirt whipped off to show a pair of pins in her 1950’s shorts, something which makes the audience cheer with delight.
The music is in keeping with the era as is the rather lovely set, full of colour and 1950’s kitsch which opens up its walls to reveal the diner, Fonz’s garage and the Cunningham’s back yard. With costumes, hair and makeup that instantly transport you to 1950s America complimented by fast paced dance routines this show has the audience tapping their feet. With encouragement from Freeman it was during the encore that the audience got up from their seats to sing along with the show’s recognised number.
Yes this show still needs some tweaking and tightening but if you are a fan of the TV series or you like the music from this era then give this show a visit
Photo by Paul Coltas Runs until 15th February 2014