By Tony Schillaci and Don Church

The Fonz, Richie, Pottsie, Ralph, Pinky, Joanie and Chachi….yes, the whole gang is back at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, until June 29th in the musical, Happy Days.

This frothy fun musical, written by Garry Marshall is as much of a treat as a strawberry ice cream soda!

The setting is Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1959 when things were cool and puppy love and dance contests were what was happening.

The Fonz, played by Joey Sorge, is just as cool as the original.  A big thumbs up for this guy.

Sandra DeNise as Pinky, the Fonz’s ex, wows the audience with her big voice in “Message in the MusicSavannah Wise as Joanie, and Cynthia Ferrer as Marion Cunningham join Pinky in a ballad, “What I Dreamed Last Night.

Michele Lynch’s choreography captures the spirit of the ‘50’s, and also puts enough acrobatics on the stage as a three-ring circus!

When The Resident’s critics spoke to cast members backstage they each verified that there is a bond that makes them feel as though they are truly the Cunningham’s extended family.

Although fans of the TV show, created by Garry Marshall, might have preconceived notions of how these characters would be interpreted in a musical comedy, all of the familiar personalities come into perspective in a fresh, new more well-rounded way

Connecticut native Lannon Killea is all exuberance and vitality in his role as the love-sick, shy Chachi.  Richie is played by both David Larson and Rory O’Malley.

Potsie by Billy Harrington Tighe and Ralph by Stanley Banorek.   Their singing group, The Dial-Tones, is as strong in four-part harmony as the real chart-breakers of the day, The Four Freshmen and The Four Lads.

Veteran actors Bob Amaral as Arnold and Kevin Carolan as Howard Cunningham had as much fun onstage as their slightly younger co-stars.  Their warm personalities grab the audience right away.

Add the talents of Estonian actress Hanna-Liina Vosa as Richie’s girl Lori Beth, and Matt Merchant and Matt Walker playing the wrestling Malachi brothers, plus nine ensemble members and you’ve got a cast worth cheering for.

Garry Marshall has rolled all the TV episodes into one, with a lighthearted plot about the kids rallying to “Save Arnolds” from the wrecking ball.

Paul Williams has taken the Happy Days theme song, and has expanded that musical gem into a full score – including plenty of do-wop.  A few contemporary-style songs are peppered into the second act, which don’t fit as well as the 50’s style theme.

Still, the show is easy-breezy entertainment with lots of corny jokes (the corn is golden), some nice songs, and an upbeat cast.

With this show, Happy Days sure ARE here again!

Tony Schillaci and Don Church are members of the Connecticut Critics Circle (ctcritics.org).  They can be reached at criticsontheaisle@hotmail.com  

©2008. Tony Schillaci and Don Church. Critics On The Aisle. All rights reserved.

(This review will be published in The Resident, serving Southeastern CT on May 28, 2008)

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