16-21 June 2014
Reviewed by Hilary Whates
By Garry Marshall
Music & Lyrics by Paul Williams
Directed and Choreographed by Andrew Wright
Director David Grindley
‘Happy Days – a musical?’
‘Yes Mr T.’
‘But it was a TV show – I can’t remember much singing’
‘This version has lots’
‘No – just hum’
We arrived just in time to take our seats in the busy auditorium where there definitely was a buzz of anticipation – a lot of Fonz fans out there looking for a bit of 1950s nostalgia. Ben Freeman of Emmerdale Farm certainly stepped up to the mark delivering his own but very believable interpretation of the legendary Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli – swaggering, ‘Aaaayyyyy’ ing and smoothing his hair at all the right moments.
Set in the 1950’s the musical portrays the Cunningham family as they battle with the help of Chachi, Ralph and Potsie to save their local diner – Arnold’s. Various fundraising ideas are devised culminating in a live TV broadcast of a wrestling match featuring Fonz against his former tormentors (they stole his comb and hid it) – the two brothers Jumpy and Count (not Leslie) Malachi – played superbly by Sam Robinson and Henry Davis.
The introduction of Pinky Tuscadero certainly injected some 50s glamour – Heidi Range of Sugarbabes fame singing beautifully – I particularly liked her duet with Fonzie ‘Dancing on the Moon’. However the absolute highlight of the show was Cheryl Baker singing ‘What I Dreamed Last Night’ – a very poignant moment in a play otherwise only touching depths of emotion in a rather superficial way.
One of my favourite moments however was actually the meeting of the Leopard Club because it was quite ridiculous and therefore appealed to my sense of humour. If you agree hold up your paw and say Grrrrrrrrrr!
The energy of the whole cast – many looking so incredibly like their TV counterparts – was faultless – just incredible dancing and singing almost continuously for nearly two hours. The set certainly delivered on nostalgia too – cleverly moved around by members of the cast as each scene required. In fact the constant moving around of the set did feel a little bit of an interruption sometimes but often was quite seamless. With over 20 songs the show certainly pulls out all the stops to entertain.
But whilst they may be foot tapping there was very few that I found to be memorable – with the exception of course of the much loved ‘Happy Days’ theme tune.
The show ended with a very heartfelt and I hope successful appeal by Cheryl Baker on behalf of the cast to support a local Milton Keynes charity.
We walked back to the car with Mr T gently humming a tune.
‘Is that the Happy Days tune Mr T?’
‘Would you like me to buy you a pint?’
Tickets cost from £14.90 to £42.40 (plus £2.85 transaction fee).
Happy Days – A New Musical is at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 21 June 2014. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 8717652.
Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes, Bucks, MK9 3NZ