by DICK KEREKES
The musical version of the classic television show Happy Days arrived at the Times Union Center and will be on stage through March 1st. If you are over 40 you probably remember the original series that ran every Tuesday night from 1974-1984 and was one of the top rated shows on the tube. Back in those days, we did not have extensive cable and 300 channels, so it was watched by millions. I talked with a couple of 20 year olds and they were familiar with the show as they had watched it in one of the many reruns on TV.
The plot is similar to one of the TV shows, with lots of fluff and fun. The gang who go to Arnold’s Malt and Burger shop are organizing a fund raising dance and wrestling match to save the joint from a developer who wants to build a thing called a mall on the location. The drive is headed by the town civic club, the Leopards, who growl and strut in their leopard skin hats and, of course, the most famous Happy Days character, The Fonze, with the assistance of his ex-girl friend Pinky Tuscadero.
Joey Sorge is wonderful as Fonzie and has the role that Henry Winkler created on the show nailed down tight, with just the right gestures, facial expressions and some very good singing. Pinky played by Felicia Finley, has a strong and commanding voice, the best in the show. In addition she has the best body as is evidenced by the skin tight clothing she was poured into. She and Fonzie, sing several songs and are clearly the stars of this show.
There is a cast of 22 and other standouts are Cynthia Ferrer as Marion, the always cooking and tap dancing mother, and the wrestling team called the Malachi Brothers, Matt Walker & Matt Merchant. As professional wrestlers they are the smallest in stature I have ever seen but then l959 was way before steroids made the scene.
The sets are bold and colorful are framed like a large television set. The costumes are very brassy l950s teenage stuff for the most part and also very colorful. Michelle Lynch’s choreography is lively and exciting and sort of reminded me of the musical Grease at times.
Gary Marshall created, wrote and produced Happy Days for television and this is his baby as well. He brought on Oscar winning song writer Paul Williams for the music and lyrics. Williams has a long list of hit songs, my favorite is “Just an Old Fashion Love Song”. The music has a bit of the 50s doo wop, and most of it is toe tapping material. (My foot is still sore). The best song of the nineteen was “Legend in Leather” by Ms.Finley but you will find all the lyrics fun and clever for the most part.
This musical has everything you may miss from the 50s, like motorcycles, leather jackets, romancing teenagers, over protective parents, and some pretty corny but amusing jokes. This is a fast paced show with a very energetic cast. I would recommend this for the whole family. The language is clean, although there are some double entendre sexual references, but they zip by pretty fast and I even had a hard time catching them at times.
Indulge yourself and take a trip down memory lane to a time when gas was twelve cents gallon. Golly visions of full gas tanks danced in my head for several moments when they mentioned that!!
This is a change to see a pre-Broadway showing of a musical. Marshall opened this musical last year in his own theatre in Burbank, California and decided on a nationwide tour to launch it. It is your chance to see the original cast of a show and they are good. Call 904-632-3373 or go to www.artistseries.fccj.org for ticket information.
by DICK KEREKES