The Musical Churchill Theatre, Bromley. January 10
The Chill of a cold January night was soon lost on entering the packed foyer of The Churchill Theatre, Bromley, for the opening night of ‘happy Days – the musical’, based on the TV show and written by its creator, Garry Marshall.
With a score+1 of songs by multi –Grammy winner, Paul Williams, it tells the story of the fight by The Fonz and the Cunningham’s to save their local diner Arnold’s from being bulldozed by a property developer.
Most 50s based musicals have to be full of colour and vitality and this has both in abundance. The set and costumes are great, and the choreography is outstanding. The story is driven by songs, often short with witty, clever and often complex lyrics, with the lead parts filled by Ben Freeman as The Fonz and Heidi Range as Pinky.
As Cheryl Baker (Mrs. Cunningham) began to sing ‘What I Dreamed Last Night’ you could feel the buzz go around the auditorium, ‘a real ‘Mrs. Potts’ moment’, which dipped slightly as it became a duet, but it remained the highlight of the first act, receiving huge applause.
Cheryl got the biggest cheer in act two for her ‘skirt rip’ which worked well within the story, – and the biggest laugh, as she successfully struggled to retrieve a pie from an oven still mobile having missed its set change cue. They obviously teach you everything on Masterchef!
An amusing ‘Guys Like Us’ session on being cool followed with The Fonz taking advice from James Dean and Elvis Presley, leading to the conclusion, and another showstopper ‘Dancing On The Moon’ by Fonz and Pinky.
Act two is much faster and smoother than the first, which appeared bitty and disjointed. But a reliable friend with a similar view about this performance returned a few days later and discovered everything was much tighter, a noticeable improvement. Before this performance Ben Freeman admitted he had yet to fully become Fonzie but if he continues to interact with the audience and cast, as he clearly can, I am sure he will get there.
A fun night out, silly escapism often bordering on panto (not a bad thing) that will entertain the whole family, whether they are familiar with the show or not.
Jim Stewart 2014