Happy Days are Here Again

The Players Theatre Company presents HAPPY DAYS, A NEW MUSICAL at The Owen Theatre

By: Sean K. Thompson

When one thinks of the definitive ‘50s musical, it’s forgivable to think that only original pieces like Grease and Bye Bye Birdie are the only ones to rock to. But generation-spanning film director/producer Garry Marshall came up with a fresh take when he wrote the book for the stage musical adaptation of his iconic television series, Happy Days.

The Players Theatre Company is gladly inviting you to don your poodle skirts, leather jackets, and saddle shoes and come out to see Happy Days: A New Musical at The Owen Theatre, running May 10-26. The production is directed by area artistic artisan Sean K. Thompson, who last year brought Kiss Me, Kate – and The Three Musketeers the year before that – to Conroe audiences.

“It’s a unique privilege to direct a fresh take on this timeless piece of Americana,” says Thompson. “I can’t deny that there’s a special challenge to remain true to the source material that the audiences already know by heart.”

Thompson assures us that Happy Days – which includes original music written by multi-award-winning songwriter Paul Williams – is replete with all the best pieces of the sitcom brought to life on stage.

“All your favorite characters will be there: Fonz and Richie, Joanie and Chachi, Ralph and Potsie, Howard and Marion, Pinky Tuscadero, and more,” says Thompson. “We’ll also take the audiences back to Arnold’s hangout, Fonzie’s garage, and the Cunninghams’ kitchen.”

The setting of the production is 1959, exactly sixty years ago. The musical is designed to be a standalone affair that is supposed to take place sometime around the series’ fourth season – before Fonz notoriously literally and figuratively jumped the shark. Thompson, when he read the script, felt that the play came across as a “very special musical episode” of the 1970s television series, and has decided to stage it as such.

“From the moment the audience enters the auditorium, we will be transporting them back to a ‘70s television studio. Do you remember at the beginning of each episode, the announcer would say, ‘This episode is taped before a live studio audience?’ Well, we’re continuing that tradition, and our Owen audiences will be treated as that very same live studio audience. So, effectively, they’ll get to enjoy two different time periods: 1959 and 1979.”

One of the more humorous aspects of directing this production, according to Thompson, is the overall youth of the cast. “It’s bad enough that none of us were alive in the 1950s, but a majority of the cast wasn’t even alive in the 1970s. I and the other more ‘seasoned’ members of the team are having to give them special history lessons – not only about life in the 1950s, but about sitcoms in the 1970s.”

The cast includes Cain Hamilton as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli, Derek Greenbank as Richie, Ethen Garcia as Chachi, Hannah Gilchriest as Joanie, Lizzie Camp as Pinky Tuscadero, Bradley Rice as Ralph, Matthew Wehring as Potsie, McKenna Hartlein as Lori Beth, Rick Sellers and Cheryl Campbell as Howard and Marion Cunningham, Sam Sigman as Arnold, and a talented ensemble that includes Allan McFarlane, Kevin Downs, Sebastian Tutt, Kelly Meek, Jaylynn Young, Sadie Blair, Kendall Hoelscher, Marissa Roberts, Michelle Roberts, Emily Sanchez, and Tiffany Stuard. The production is assistant-directed by John Barton, with choreography by Melody Johnson, vocal direction by Brad Zimmerman, and costumes by Valerie Hill with some costumes generously provided by the estate of Deborah Blake.

“These fine actors and actresses are amazing at bringing these timeless favorite characters to life,” says Thompson, I invite you to come enjoy the fruits of their hard labors, and to leave the show with new tunes in your head and a spring in your step.”

Happy Days: A New Musical runs May 10 through 26 at The Owen Theatre. For tickets and information, visit www.owentheatre.com or call 936-539-4090.