Stories & Cast Interviews
Getting to know Chachi, Michael D'Amico!
We talk to Michael D'Amico, who plays Chachi Arcola in our production of Happy Days...
I grew up in Manalapan, NJ - about 10 miles from the shore. My parents are New Yorkers, so city culture, as well as the beach, were a huge part of my upbringing. I went into the city often to visit family and friends, and I spent lots of time at the beach all times of the year! It was a really cool mesh!
I always sang, but growing up, I played soccer for about 8 years, so I was always very focused on that. However, my freshman year of high school, my best friend and I decided to take theatre together as our arts elective. At that point, I wanted to direct films, and having been exposed to the stage, I decided to take a NYFA summer intensive for directing. It turns out that the other students in the program needed actors for their pieces, so I volunteered, and I caught the bug!
Growing up I used to watch Nick-at-night with my mom almost every day after she came home from work. Happy Days was on all the time, as was Laverne and Shirley and I Love Lucy. I first heard of the musical a little while back while doing some research for Doo-Wop type Musical Theater songs.
It's an incredible gift to be able to portray such iconic characters. Not only is there a major amount of resources available as far as research, but it's rare that you get to play somebody who was a part of your childhood culture. There's certainly pressure when it comes to this, but it's a fun privilege to be able to honor what the essence of the character is, while still bringing yourself to it.
This is my first WBT show, but I really enjoy that the whole crew and cast are supportive- it's like a family. The product that WBT brings is more than just quality
I have several shows I'd love to work on, but I've always dreamed of playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. I'd also really love to play Boq in Wicked. My favorite musical of all time is West Side Story.
I enjoy traveling, reading, and in the winter, snowboarding.
I own quite a bit of music and have rather electric taste. I really love 90's R&B soul- there's a fair amount of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, and Celine Dion. I also love pop! Maroon 5, Lianne La Havas, Sia, and Panic! at the Disco are my favorites at the moment.
Aaay! Meet the Fonz, Nick Varricchio!
Meet Nick Varricchio, who plays Arthur Fonzarelli in our production of Happy Days. He gave us a little insight on who he is and what he's like.
I grew up in Mentor, Ohio just outside of Cleveland. My parents are the hardest working people I know, and I am the middle child of two brothers-- Domenic Angelo and Vincent Peter. Every Sunday night was "Pasta Sunday" at my grandma's house in Wickliffe, Ohio-- a neighboring town full of proud Italian families. We would pack all of our aunts and uncles and cousins around folding chairs and tables and enjoy pounds of spaghetti and meatballs and homemade sauce. My mom and me would always watch old Hollywood classic movies and swoon over the greats like Gene Kelly, Monty Clift, and Liz Taylor. My dad would take my brothers and me to Pymatuning in PA for a week of camping each summer and more often than not we served as secondary coast guards in our little pontoon on Conneaut Lake.
My brothers and I had such wild imaginations growing up. After rounding up our neighborhood gang and tiring ourselves of kickball and capture the flag, we'd pretend that we were movie-making machines. I soon began to live my life as if I were actually in a movie. Directors like Peter Bogdanovich and Roman Polanski and actors like Cary Grant and Lucille Ball helped shape my perspective of how to view the world around me. I am terribly fond of Dean Martin's 'cool' and influenced by the words of writers Ayn Rand and Elizabeth Gilbert. My mentors are more often than not people whom I've met only once or aspire to work with like Marilyn Maye, Mindy Cohn, and Bill Irwin. I would like to give credit to a dear friend, Brint Learned-- the artistic director of Rabbit Run Theatre. He directed me one summer in a production of "The Light in the Piazza," and the whole experience is a major reason why I'm still acting today. He allowed me to rediscover my creativity.
I first heard of "Happy Days The Musical" when I auditioned for this production. I was unaware of its history. I knew the TV show well, as I grew up watching Nick at Nite. Richie and Fonzie were like good friends alongside Laverne and Shirley, Dick Van Dyke, and Mary Tyler Moore.
The thought of playing such an iconic character was at first daunting and a little bit like sailing into uncharted territory. Nevertheless, I vowed to be up for the challenge. I made Fonzie my best friend all throughout rehearsals and wore his classic leather jacket religiously! Now if I could only get my hands on the one in the Smithsonian...
My favorite shows and dream roles include (first and foremost) Bobby in "Company", Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and to one day have my own variety show called "A Nightcap with Nick Varricchio and Friends!"
Off the clock I enjoy doing CrossFit, writing short stories, listening to old records, making meatballs, learning languages, studying physics, reading...you get the idea.
Currently what's on my iPod: Karen Carpenter, Pentatonix, Donna Summer, the BeeGees "Saturday Night Fever," ...the beat goes on.
as Fonzie, with his gang.
Meet Richie Cunningham, Herb Porter.
Meet Herb Porter, the guy behind our production of Happy Days' Richie Cunningham.
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio with my mom, dad, sister and brother. I played sports most my life (football, wrestling, track and field) with the occasional spring musical thrown in here or there. I come from a family of businessmen, lawyers and number crunchers. So deciding to take a career in the arts was definitely off the beaten trail. Though I didn't follow in the family footsteps, my family has been behind me every step of the way.
I attended Denison Univ. in Ohio where I studied Biology. During my time at DU, I was fortunate to participate in what was essentially an extra-curricular musical theatre class. We'd rehearse twice a week all semester and then perform a show. I had zero plans on becoming an actor, I performed for fun. It wasn't until I booked my first role outside of college, playing Jean Valjean, that I looked at acting as a potential path. So after numerous talks with friends and family I decided to put medical school on hold and try acting for a bit. Jumping into this world blindly was a very scary thought. DU was small and there were no theatre alumni or possible connections. I had to learn everything on my own and I mean everything, I didn't even know what equity was until my first equity gig. I was fortunate though to find mentors along the way who would help guide me in the right direction. My two first equity directors, Marc Robin and Ed Flesch, helped mold me into a better and more professional actor. While my vocal coach, Dr. Bryan Wade, has been an unbelievable resource and friend. Bryan answers all my questions about the business, how to audition properly, and how to be a successful actor.
I honestly had no idea there was a Happy Days musical until the WBT casting notice. I sat there and though to myself, "hey, that would be a good show for me...I look kind of like Richie...just bigger." So when I got the call to play this iconic role I knew it was something I couldn't pass up. Having grown up watching all the classic shows like Happy Days, Gilligan's Island, etc I was overwhelmed that I would get the chance to play typical high schooler Richie Cunningham. Richie is know around the world. He is a T.V icon who will influence viewers for years to come. His actor, Ron Howard, has continued to make unbelievable films and documentaries as a director. There's a lot of pressure to not only honor the character and to capture the essence Richie, but to also give Ron Howard the respect he deserves for creating this role.
My favorite show, hands-down, is Les Miserables...I know, opposite side of the spectrum from Happy Days. I've done Les Mis 5 times, 2 times as ensemble and 3 times as Valjean. The show is filled with hope and love and holds a deep place in my entire families hearts. My dream role would be to play Elder Price, Book of Mormon...as soon as I learn how to tap.
When I'm not on stage you can usually find me in the kitchen baking. I work at Schmackary's bakery, baking and selling cookies all day. I love baking because of how precise it is, it's a science.I always had a big hole in my heart for confections and candies, don't let me in a candy store or it will be be bad. To offset all that baking though when I'm not in the kitchen I'm at the gym or doing some form of exercise. Getting the endorphins going and working up a nice sweat makes me feel alive. Any other spare time is spent practicing music or playing video games.
My current favorite artist is Imagine Dragons, they fill my iphone
Meet Mrs. Cunningham, Lori Hammel
Lori Hammel plays Mrs. Cunningham in our production of Happy Days.
I grew up in North Dakota. I started competing in talent shows when I was 12 and I was in a country-western band by the time I was 15. It was a great place to grow up. We lived in New Salem (population 1,000) during some of those years – a small town where people all knew each other. I wanted to be in every group I could join.
I always liked entertaining other people. When I was in first grade, I put on my snowsuit when it was hot outside and made my mom laugh. Then I walked down the block and knocked on the door of our neighbors so they would see it and laugh too. I continued performing - my mom would have me sing in the living room for relatives. I did the school plays and had a fabulous junior high teacher, Mrs. Beckman, who let me act and write and be myself. She was so encouraging and I really felt seen and heard, and she gave me hope that I could do it all. We moved back to the big town of Bismarck, North Dakota late in my high school years and they had a lovely new theater. Again, I dove in and did the shows. It felt like home to me. Eventually, I wanted to legitimize my passion for acting by going to college to learn more about it.
Being in this show has been a great experience. I loved watching Happy Days as a kid, so I can say that it is the greatest show and so much fun. The values and the true heart felt relationships made me want to be a part of that family.
It has been a blast to play these wonderful TV characters. I was always such a TV junkie and still am. I loved playing Mrs. Brady from The Brady Bunch because she handles having so many kids with such grace and wisdom and she is the perfect wife who still has ideas of her own. Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy is so fabulous to play because she is the voice of reason - always trying to help Lucy be wise to the trouble she is getting into – yet in spite of it all, Ethel goes along with her best friend and usually gets in trouble too. Mrs. Cunningham is the voice of reason and such a loving soul – she is someone I would love to be able to get comfort and advice from.
I am totally into “Last Tango in Halifax” – a British TV show that has multi-generational families dealing with life’s problems and challenges. It is ultimately about loving people for who they are, no matter what they are going through. It has the fabulous stage actor Derek Jacobi and the ever graceful Anne Reid – two characters in their 70’s who find love again. It’s a current TV family. My dream role is to play a beloved series regular on a hit TV show. Maybe that’s why I like playing them so much on stage! Speaking of television shows, be sure to watch for me on the upcoming season two of "Difficult People" on Hulu!
I love getting together with my friends and talking about life and art and creating. I love to write, and I co-authored a guidebook for young actors called “Minding the Edge – Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor”. Another actor friend and I are writing a new web series, so I like to keep busy!
I like fun 1970’s music that makes me feel good!
as Carol Brady as Ethel Mertz
as Ethel Mertz