Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 19, 2008

“Happy Days - A New Musical”

Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT
through June 29, 2008
By Shera Cohen

Expect the expected at Goodspeed Opera House for their run of “Happy Days – A New Musical.” For the millions of baby boomers and their parents who loved the TV series, this is a step back in time to fun of the fifties, rock ‘n roll, perfect families, and poodle skirts.

The musical’s title is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, the production is “new.” But there is nothing “new” about “Happy Days.” That’s quite alright. There’s Richie and his buddies, Mr. & Mrs. C, Joanie and Chachi, Arnold’s hangout, and dialogue that’s “really cool.” While not a series regular, Pinky – the hot chick in pink – plays a major role in the musical. Of course, there’s Fonzie. Ronny Howard was credited as the show’s star, but it was Henry Winkler who stole the show. Well, there’s no pretense this time. This play belongs to The Fonz.

Joey Sorge and Sandra DeNise (Fonz and Pinky) create characters, both rough on the outside and fragile on the inside, who are perfect together as they sing to or about each other. Sorge’s “Heartbreak” and DeNise’s “Message in the Music” offer examples of the singing and acting skills of the duo.

There is next to no story. Audience members could have easily turned on a “Happy Days” rerun on “Nick at Nite.” Important is the energetic, athletic, youthful cast of what seem like a dozen “American Idol” top winners, on a colorful and brightly lit set. Put together, these elements make for wholesome entertainment.

Many actors take double and triple roles. While not on the “star” list, Matt Merchant is particularly noticeable as Elvis and later as a tough guy wrestler. Merchant creates caricatures that don’t need to sing very well, but his voice is one of the best onstage.

It is obvious that the actors were cast to look like those on TV. At times, the musical even makes fun and inside jokes about the series. It’s doubtful that the balcony of school kids “got” all of the humor. What they got was a look at times when the worst problem of the day was which plunger to purchase or picking a favorite song on the jukebox.