PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Garry Marshall

PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Garry Marshall Garry Marshall needs no introduction in Hollywood.
Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall

The creator of the sitcoms "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" long ago made his name in television. And, beginning in the mid-'80s, he showed a flair for popular filmmaking as well, directing such titles as "The Flamingo Kid," "Pretty Women," "Beaches" and "Runaway Bride." His theatre work has been less publicized. In 1997, he founded the small Falcon Theatre in Burbank, CA, and has produced a string of plays there since, placing his daughter Kathleen in charge of the running the operation. The company's most high-profile production to date has been Happy Days: A New Musical, a show based on Marshall's most famous television creation. Marshall penned the book, with Paul Williams handling the music. After initial runs at the Falcon in 2006, the show has lately been testing the Atlantic waters at Goodspeed Musicals and Paper Mill Playhouse. Marshall spoke to Playbill.com about his and the Fonz's new lives on stage.

Playbill.com: Are you happy with the Paper Mill production?
GM: Very much. This theatre [Paper Mill] is terrific here; 1,200 seats! I saw it with 130 seats in my own theatre, the Falcon Theatre in California.

Playbill.com: Is there any chance that Happy Days will eventually come to New York?
GM: Well, the plan was to work on it. Paul Williams and I have been doing this for close to five years, perfecting it. We hope to get it on the road and eventually come to New York, yes. This is like a dream project.

Playbill.com: Do you think any other Garry Marshall television shows will ever be turned into musicals?
GM: I don't know. I hope certainly that they don't do "Me and the Chimp." That was not one of my higher moments. "Happy Days" was always the one I thought would [make a good musical], because it's not so much a real show, as much as how you hoped your family would be, and how your town would be.

Playbill.com: The Falcon Theatre is 10 years old now. You've been so successful in television and film. What made you want to open a theatre?
GM: My mother was a dance teacher in the Bronx, in the basement of our building, for almost 50 years. She always had recitals. My sisters would dance. I always played drums for all their shows. I always loved live entertainment. I did a couple of plays. I always wanted to do it, but was never in a position to. So I said, "Well, the answer is I'll build my own so I can do it here [in California], because I can't always travel." Also, my wife is a nurse. She was hoping for one doctor [in the family], but all three of my children are in show business. So, I thought I would build the theatre. Playbill.com: It's a real family affair, isn't it?
GM: Yeah, my daughter runs it, and the other daughter writes children's shows and my son has directed, and as we speak my sister Penny is in rehearsal [to act in] a play there. She's doing Sheldon and Mrs. Levine.

Playbill.com: Is this the first play she's done at the Falcon?
GM: Yes. She hasn't done plays in many years. But she likes acting again — she directed for many years, of course — so she decided to do some acting. It's a very funny play. It gives her a lot of room to do physical stuff.

Playbill.com: Do Broadway producers ask you to come to Broadway to direct?
GM: On and off. For some reason, they ask me to act in things, but I don't sing or dance, so ask my mother! The Drowsy Chaperone wanted me to do something, but, no, I really love to do plays at the Falcon, and hopefully some will come to New York.

Playbill.com: One of the films you directed, The Flamingo Kid, has been transformed into a stage musical. You're not involved with that, are you?
GM: No, I am not. I was one of the writers of the screenplay, but I'm not involved. I haven't been to any of the readings. It's a Fox thing. They own it.

Playbill.com: Have you ever heard of anyone trying to turn your movie "Pretty Woman" into a stage show?
GM: Constantly! So far it has not happened. Unlike a lot of people, J.F. Lawton, the writer of the movie, did get the theatrical rights to his script. Because Disney, you know, did not think that movie was going to be a hit. He and Disney have not been able to come to terms as to how to bring it to the stage. I think it would make a great musical, but just try to get people to stop fighting.