Following on from my interview with producer Amy Anzel I was lucky enough to see one of the first performances of Happy Days in the UK at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley.
With a strong supporting cast, demonstrating their chops as excellent singers and dancers, Happy Days is off to a good start. However, with forgettable music and no real plot, the show quickly loses direction. When I saw the show, upon the first notes of the well known theme tune at the overture the audience went wild, desperate to love the production and completely on the side of the cast. Sadly, the grip of the audience waned throughout the show, only brought back at a jukebox style encore.
Ben Freeman as The Fonz was surprisingly convincing, albeit little more than a good impression, it didn’t feel completely out of place against the other characters. However, Richie Cunningham and Ralph are played by two incredible young performers, Scott Waugh and Andrew Waldron. It is these two that really shine in the cast, with dynamic faces and voices that ring out across the stalls. Cheryl Baker as the downtrodden Marion Cunningham comes into her own throughout the show, with some great moments that really had the audience laughing. There’s some real and obvious talent in the cast here, and a quick glance through the programme tells you that whilst these performers are well qualified for the job, this is their first or one of their first professional performances.
Overall, the weaknesses in the show are nothing to do with the cast or crew, they deliver clean cut and precise performaances with enthusiasm but the unconvincing plot means the audience loses interest. The only jeopardy facing the bubbly 50s kids is the shutting down of their beloved Arnold’s diner, and with an unseen villain and unconvincing comedy enemies of Fonz showing up, the plot didn’t seem to engage willing audience.
However, if you want a night full of fabulous singing, topped off with a quick boogie to the theme tune then it’s great! The set is innovative and well used, the band are great and work hard throughout the show. Hopefully as the tour continues the problems with the show will the ironed out as there is huge potential for a great and popular show here.