Happy Days! TV Comes Alive

Happy Days
Written by Garry Marshall
Music and lyrics by Paul Williams
Directed by Gordon Greenberg
Performed by Joey Sorge and company
Dancap Production
Elgin Theatre, Toronto
February 3 to 15, 2009

Live! On Stage!
Review by Mary Alderson

The hit TV show of the 1970s was a sit-com called Happy Days set in the 1950s. You’ll remember Ron Howard who played the sensible Richie Cunningham along side Henry Winkler’s super cool Fonzie. If you enjoyed that show, and your kids enjoy it on Deja-Vu, then you’ll all have a good time seeing it live.
Happy Days, an over-the-top musical that closely follows the television show, is currently running at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre, downtown on Yonge Street. This touring production has a good cast of high-energy dancers/singers.
The plot is rather superficial (but then who was expecting anything deep?). Everyone is devastated because Arnold’s (remember the drive-in restaurant?) is going to be torn down to make way for a mall. This is 1959 and no one knows what a mall is; nevertheless, they are sure they have to save Arnold’s.
The show is peppered with such tidbits of anachronistic humour. Joanie wants a car, but her father says she can’t have one, with the price of gas so high. Marion, her mother, responds that she’s sure gas will never go higher than 12 cents a gallon. As the show ends, Richie is heading off for college, and Marion worries about his future. But Mr. C. says “What could be more stable than a college dorm in the 1960s?”
Some of the humour is at the expense of the television series: Richie says that he used to be able to solve all problems in less than half an hour. They also poked fun at Canadians at the Toronto opening – there was an ‘eh’ joke, among others.
A touch of dark humour was added to the corny comedy. Fonzie is guided by the ghosts of super cool stars: James Dean and Elvis. The audience chuckles when Elvis was hungry for a burger and James offers to drive him to the restaurant, foreshadowing both their untimely deaths.
Joey Sorge is excellent as an exact replica of Fonzie. He has the voice down pat with the trademark “aaaayyyy”. James Michael Lambert also has a good reproduction of the whiny voice of Ralph Malph. Cynthia Ferrer is a delightful Marion Cunningham. It was nice to see Marion updated and moving out of the kitchen. Ferrer is wonderful as a tap dancing pie maker. Whitney Bashor has the mannerisms of Joanie, and Felicia Finley makes a good tough-girl Pinky Tuscadero.
While the tunes were cute and the lyrics funny, there isn’t likely to be any big hit songs come out of this show. The choreography is best described as lively, with flips and cartwheels tossed in.
Happy Days is good clean fun that you can enjoy with the kids or grandkids. The humour is corny and the acting is over-the-top, but a good time can be had by all.
For tickets call 416-644-3665 or go to www.dancaptickets.com

Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.