BWW Review: HAPPY DAYS at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 By: Kathryn Kitt Source: Broadway World

Happy Days was an iconic show in the mid "70's and early "80's that completely powered the ABC Television lineup. The show consisted of a loveable "50's nuclear family, complete with breakout supporting characters and heartfelt stories; it became the template for family sitcoms of today. It is easy to trace back to "Happy Days" when watching hit sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, for Gary Marshall touched on the idea that family values and everyday life could be funny, yet relatable.

It seemed inevitable that a musical version of the core story could be created. Gary Marshall himself, with the collaboration of Grammy-winning composer Paul Williams, has crafted a musical that stays true to the heart of the show. Westchester Broadway Theatre has presented an enjoyable version of this, to my surprise and delight.

What is interesting about this particular show is that the main focus is on the Fonzie character and his romance with Pinky. Pinky was the love interest for Fonzie and only appeared in a handful of episodes. However, because Fonzie was such a breakout character, it makes sense to craft a musical around him.

The overall takeaway of the musical is the enthusiasm and loyalty to the show's core. The music by Mr. Williams conveys the musical style of the era with songs like "The Thing about Girls" and "Guys Like Us" - complete with a "50's feel to more power ballads like "What I dreamed Last Night" complete with an 11'o clock reprise in the second act, to really rival some other "50's" like musicals.

The show had some definitive comic references to the show, including the famous opening Laverne and Shirley chant (from the spinoff) to the budding romance of Joannie and Chachi, but it never felt condescending. The material honored the memory of the characters and emphasized their personalities through the songs and choreography.

Nick Varricchio anchored the show as beloved Arthur Fonzarelli and Maria Logan as Pinky  had perfect chemistry to bring a romantic dimension to their story. Interestingly enough, Herb Porter as Richie was a good comic sidekick and anchored the story great commentary. Peter Davenport and Lori Hammel as "Mr. and Mrs. "C"(Cunningham) were loving parental types and Peter Marinos as Arnold gave a spirited performance as the owner of the character's namesake Diner.

Jonathan Stahl paid tribute to the original sitcom with his directing style, while Ryan Edward Wise complimented the energy with a solid band. Poodle skirts and leather jackets were represented with costume inspiration by Janell Berté. The set design was authentically displayed by Steve Loftus with lighting design by Andrew Gmoser to capture the innocence and brightness of the era.

The most enjoyable aspect of the show was bringing my 9 year old daughter, who never even knew of the sitcom before seeing it. She was completely captivated by the characters and the music, plus the whole Westchester Broadway Experience itself. The show had a lot of heart and certainly endeared her to binge watch old episodes. That in itself should be a testament to how successful this Westchester Broadway Theatre production is.

Reservations: Call (914)-592-2222. Also at: www.BroadwayTheatre.com

Group Reservations: Discounts for Groups of 20 or More: Call 592-2225.

Luxury Boxes: Call 592-8730, for private parties of 6 to 22. Enjoy dining and theatre in an elegant private box. Additional features include an expanded dinner menu, hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, private powder room, and Luxury Box reserved parking. Additional cost, call for details.

Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56.00 and $84.00 PLUS TAX depending on the performances chosen. Beverage Service & Gratuities are not included in the ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Also check the website for on-going Special Offers! More news at: www.BroadwayTheatre.com.