Nottingham Theatre Royal
Now if you're of a certain age and can remember the original US TV show with Henry Winkler as the super cool leather jacketed The Fonz, the King of Cool, you may, like myself, have high expectations of Ben Freeman's performance. And he has some cool shoes to fill, and guess what, when you get into the musical, he does actually grow on you, and the nice thing is that Ben brings out the softer side of the Fonz.
In the TV series The Fonz would never dance, unless it was a slow smooch, and he would never sing, but Heyyyyy this is a musical! Ben actually pleasantly surprised me and I really enjoyed his version of The Fonz. One slight aside though,
In true musical style, there is a catastrophe afoot when Arnold's, the diner where all the cool cats and the wannabe cool cats hang out for their soda pops and to catch up with the latest gossip and hep tunes, as well as meet girls...and boys of course, when Arnold breaks the bad news. Arnold's is due to be bulldozed so that they can erect, of all things, a shopping mall and a McDonaid's...it would never catch on!
So Arnold, Mr Cunningham and the leopards, Mrs Cunningham, Richie, Potsy, Ralph "Malph", Chatchi and co need a plan to save Arnold's. But can The Fonz save the day, and of course the future of Arnold's?
The set is brilliant and so reminiscent of the TV set, complete with Wurlitzer jukebox, a real trip down TV memory lane, Although there are no memorable songs to take away from the theatre, apart from the title track, you will enjoy some catchy (in the moment) songs like the opener "Welcome To Wisconsin", "Message In The Music", "Run" and a beautiful ballad sung by Pinky called "Legend In Leather". All of the songs have been written for the musical by Paul Williams who was responsible for songs like "Rainy Days and Mondays" as well as the "Bugsy Malone" soundtrack. The story was written by Garry Marshall who also wrote the original "Happy days" script.
I've mentioned Ben Freeman as The Fonz but all the actors perform really well, and so much like the original characters. Cheryl Baker manages to capture the very essence of Mrs Cunningham and she can still sing and dance as well as ever, a joy to watch. Oh and there's also a polite nod to her previous work in there as well!
The Sugababes Heidi Range is an absolute darling as The Fonz's ex squeeze, Pinky Tuscadero, and she really suits the style of the era, looks wise and fashion wise, and as an actress, you find it comfortable watching her act, something that can't be said of some singers turned actor I've seen in the past.
James Paterson was the spit of Howard Cunningham, and also a delight to watch. One actor making his professional debut in "Happy Days"as Richie Cunningham was Scott Waugh, whose confidence shone through. A great start to his professional career, me thinks.
A very confident cast, but as this is the final week for the touring musical, you'd expect nothing less than a finely tuned, tight ensemble, and that is exactly what you'll get. Great fun show which will have you on your feet at the end of the evening and make you leave the theatre with nostalgic thoughts and a nice warm fuzzy feeling in the bottom of your belly.
"Happy Days" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 5 July 2014.