The new stage musical comedy adaptation of the TV sitcom makes its East Coast premiere Aug. 9 at Goodspeed Musicals' Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
Songwriter Paul Williams ("We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days and Mondays") puts tunes into the mouths of Fonzie, Potsie, Ralph, Richie, the Cunninghams and the rest of the Eisenhower-era Milwaukee gang.
Broadway's Joey Sorge — of The Drowsy Chaperone and Follies — and Felicia Finley — of The Wedding Singer — are biker Fonzie and his girl, Pinky in Happy Days, which has a libretto by the TV show's creator and producer Garry Marshall.
The Norma Terris is Goodspeed's developmental space, where critics are not invited. Performances continue there to Sept. 2. Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey will stage the show in the fall, with commercial producer Bob Boyett attached to shepherd it to a wider future.
The Goodspeed staging, directed by Gordon Greenberg (Pirates!) and choreographed by Michele Lynch, is the next step in the development of the show inspired by the TV sensation that aired 1974-84. (The '50s-set Grease first dawned on Broadway in 1972 — two years before "Happy Days" became a hit series. Grease, with its bad-boy greasers and bobby-soxers, and its flirtation with rock 'n' roll, would become an international smash, revived over and over again.) Happy Days focuses on leather-jacketed Fonzie and his influence in the lives of suburbanites Howard and Marion Cunningham and their kids Joanie and Richie.
In the stage musical, Fonzie's girl, Pinky, has a larger presence than she did in the TV series.
Sorge was Young Buddy in Roundabout's staging of Follies on Broadway and was part of the ensemble of The Drowsy Chaperone. Finley wowed audiences as the hard-rockin' ex-girlfriend Linda in Broadway's The Wedding Singer. The Goodspeed cast also features Rory O'Malley as Richie, Patrick Garner (Broadway's The Smell of the Kill, ...Forum, The Front Page) as Howard, Cynthia Ferrer as Marion, Natalie Bradshaw as Joanie, Todd Buonopane (…Spelling Bee) as Ralph, Christopher Ruth as Potsie, Michael J. Farina (In My Life) as drive-in restaurant owner Arnold, with Julia Burrows as Lori Beth, Andrea Dora (Tarzan) as Paula/Pinkette Lola, Lauren Parsons as Joy/Pinkette Sally, Tom Plotkin (Footloose, Seussical) as Jumpy Malachi, Eric Schneider as Chachi and Andrew Varela (Little Women, Les Miz) as Count Malachi.
(Ferrer and O'Malley are holdovers from an earlier Los Angeles staging of the show. The Goodspeed cast is a mix of Equity and non-Equity performers.)
A commercial national tour is in the works for 2008, but not produced by Goodspeed, the Tony Award-honored resident theatre known for classic and new musicals.
The Goodspeed creative team also includes scenic designer Walt Spangler, costume designer David C. Woolard, lighting designer Jeff Croiter, sound designer Randy Hansen, music supervisor John McDaniel and music director Shawn Gough.
Happy Days is produced for Goodspeed Musicals by Michael P. Price. Visit www.goodspeed.org for more information.
Previously, Happy Days, the musical, had a run in Burbank, CA, in 2006. The show has gone through revisions since that run at the Falcon Theatre, where pop singer Joey McIntyre played Arthur Fonzarelli, aka the Fonz.
At the Falcon, Happy Days (subtitled A Family Musical!) played two engagements in 2006 (Feb. 15-March 12 and June 23-Aug. 13).
It was billed as the "high flyin', sock hoppin' musical, based on the hit Paramount Pictures' television series."
"It's May 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Fonzie is still the king of cool at everyone's favorite malt shop, Arnold's," according to the earlier Falcon announcement. "The school year is coming to an end and the rest of the gang, including Richie, Lori Beth, Potsie and Ralph Malph, are getting ready to graduate from Jefferson High School."
The "musical celebration of nostalgia" also featured appearances by Pinky Tuscadero and the Malachi Brothers.
The earlier cast included Joseph Leo Bwarie, Cynthia Ferrer, Christine Lakin, Philip Lightstone Matt Merchant, Jaclyn Miller, DeQuina Moore, Rory O'Malley, Robert Petrarca, Anna A. White, Fred Applegate, Ryan Matthew, Jackie Seiden, Matt Walker and Jay Brian Winnick.
Academy, Grammy and Golden Globe Award-winning composer Williams has provided music for the films "Bugsy Malone," "A Star Is Born," "The Muppet Movie" and the theme to TV's "The Love Boat" Among his songs include "Evergreen," "We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" and "Rainbow Connection." As an actor, he has appeared in the films "Phantom of the Paradise," the "Smokey and the Bandit" trilogy, "The Doors," as well as on Broadway in Tru.
Marshall — a producer, director and writer of film, television and theatre — has directed the films "Pretty Woman," "Frankie & Johnny," "Beaches," "Overboard," "Runaway Bride" and "The Princess Diaries" movies. He is also known for his successful television shows including "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," "The Odd Couple" and "Mork & Mindy." In 1997, he founded the Falcon Theatre. He is currently a judge of emerging movie directors on the TV competition series, "On the Lot."