Happy Days, a Goodspeed Developmental Hit, Will Be a Mainstage Returnee in 2008

News   Happy Days, a Goodspeed Developmental Hit, Will Be a Mainstage Returnee in 2008 Happy Days: A New Musical was such a hit for Goodspeed Musicals at its developmental home in August that the company is planning on saying "Happy Days are here again" in 2008.
Joey Sorge in Happy Days: A New Musical.
Joey Sorge in Happy Days: A New Musical. Photo by Gerry Goodstein

Playbill.com has learned that the new musical based on the Paramount TV series will return to Goodspeed in spring 2008 — April 11-June 29, 2008 — prior to a national tour to launch in September 2008 in La Mirada, CA. Happy Days is produced for Goodspeed Musicals by Michael P. Price.

The show by librettist Garry Marshall and songwriter Paul Williams began on the West Coast in 2006 in a separate staging and made its East Coast premiere (under the direction of Gordon Greenberg) this past summer at Goodspeed's tiny Norma Terris Theatre (Aug. 9-Sept. 2) in Chester, CT.

That production, which was not open to critics but was fully staged, represented a step toward the previously announced future tour, which now seems to be shaping up for a summer 2008 launch. As previously reported, commercial producer Bob Boyett (Journey's End) is attached to the property and is expected to partner with others for the wider commercial life.

After Connecticut, the cast and creative team of the Goodspeed production moved to Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, where it opened Sept. 30. Scenic elements and the cast size were expanded for the larger Paper Mill house.

Greenberg and members of the cast (if invited and if available) will re-surface at Goodspeed in 2008, but at Goodspeed's larger Goodspeed Opera House, in East Haddam, CT. The physical production in 2008 will likely be exclusive to Goodspeed — the tiny opera house wouldn't be able to house a large set for the future tour. Performances of Happy Days began at Paper Mill in Millburn, NJ, Sept. 26, and continue to Oct. 28.

The Paper Mill cast includes Joey Sorge as The Fonz, Rory O'Malley as Richie Cunningham, Felicia Finley as Pinky Tuscadero, Patrick Garner as Howard Cunnigham, Cynthia Ferrer as Marion Cunningham, Natalie Bradshaw as Joanie Cunningham, Todd Buonopane as Ralph Malph, Christopher Ruth as Potsie, Eric Schneider as Chachi and Michael J. Farina as Arnold.

The ensemble comprises Scott Barnhardt (Scooter), Julia Burrows (Lori Beth), Andrea Dora (Paula), Lisa Gajda (Pinkette Sally), Stephanie Gibson (Pinkette Lola), Lauren Parsons (Louise), Tom Plotkin (Jumpy Malachi) and Andrew Varela (Count Malachi).

"Happy days are here again with Richie, Potsie, Ralph Malph and the unforgettable king of cool Arthur 'The Fonz' Fonzarelli," according to Paper Mill. "[The musical] reintroduces one of America's best loved families, the Cunninghams, and the days of 1959 Milwaukee, complete with varsity sweaters, hula hoops, and jukebox sock-hoppin'. The famed drive-in malt shop and number one hang-out, Arnold's, is in danger of demolition, so the gang teams up to save it with a dance contest and TV-worthy wrestling match against former Phister prison members Count Jacques and Jimbo, aka the infamous Malachi Brothers. Even the daredevil diva Pinky Tuscadero returns to help and reunite with her 'legend in leather.'"

The creative team also includes Michele Lynch (choreographer), Walt Spangler (scenic design), David C. Woolard (costume design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design), John McDaniel (musical supervisor) and Shaun Gough (music director).

For more information, visit www.papermill.org or www.goodspeed.org.

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Director Greenberg previously told Playbill.com, "Our time at Goodspeed has been enormously productive. We've been focusing, rewriting, and tightening — finding the right balance of humor and heart — and every change is easily tested in front of that evening's audience. It's a perfect laboratory for developing a new musical — and the audiences are wonderful."

Marshall is the creator and producer of the 1974-84 sitcom series "Happy Days," which inspired the new musical; Williams is the Grammy and Oscar-wining songwriter of "We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy and Days and Mondays" and other pop hits.

"Garry and Paul were around for the first week of previews and continue to send in changes as we need them," Greenberg said.

Will the show be different once it heads south to New Jersey?

"The show will get larger at Paper Mill — the cast size increases, the band size increases, and, of course, the set increases," the director said. "We're looking at adding another song and a fun curtain call. We'll be expanding musical numbers and dance sequences — and continuing to refine the book. We're all very much looking forward to the next stage of development at the fantastic Paper Mill Playhouse."

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