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Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

Fifties Nostalgia

Theater Review

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When it comes to putting the TV show "Happy Days" on the stage in Broadway Across America's Happy Days-A New Musical, all thumbs up go to the Fonz. Or to be specific, the very talented performer Joey Sorge. He sounds like the Fonz. He's cool like the Fonz. And he goes one better than the Fonz: This guy can sing and dance yet still strut and swagger with the best of the black leather jacket crowd.

He's also the main reason to see the musical adaptation of the TV series set, where else? In our beloved Milwaukee circa 1959.

While most audiences will certainly be satisfied (to some extent) seeing their beloved TV characters come to life via song and dance, the musical version of Happy Days seems more about capitalizing on the recent spate of '50s nostalgia (Jersey Boys, Hairspray) than expanding the genre.

The TV show's wildly successful producer, Garry Marshall wrote the book while soft pop composer Paul Williams wrote the music lyrics, most of which capture the "'50's sound" while remaining unmemorable.

The show does have its moments, though. As Marion Cunningham, (Richie's mother) Cynthia Ferrer fleshes out the perpetually happy character, showing her insightful smarts through a heartfelt ballad, "What I Dreamed Last Night." And Felicia Finley has all the right tuff and cool moves as the Fonz's on and off girl, Pinky Tuscadero.

When it comes to reruns, sometimes the TV works best.