Happy Days – The Musical
Based on the TV series Happy Days this musical follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the Cunningham family, plus rival gangs and of course, true love. The songs are not well known apart from the title song Happy Days itself, probably because the melodies are not very hummable, although the lyrics help along the storyline. The curved auditorium of the Medina Theatre tends to make sound distorted, so it was helpful having the band, lead by Musical Director Michael Grist, behind the action at the back of the stage. There was no actual scenery but well devised furniture on rollers made for an interesting and multi-purpose set.
Unusually, it was act one that had the most impact being full of sparkling movement, and at this point I must congratulate the choreographer Bobby Oddy and her assistant, the director Claire Apsey, on the absolutely amazing routines they conjured up involving the full complement of some twenty six actors. All on stage executed the moves with precision and verve and the five speciality dancers The Pinketts were a joy to watch. There was also a young lady, Willow Samuel?- partnered with Simon Apsey on occasions – who has the makings of a great dancer with her precise and dainty footwork. As for Simon, who has been growing up with the SWYT from the age of two, he is quite mesmerising to watch. Not only does he present his roles with style and clarity but he is amongst the few who show interest at what is happening on stage and reacts accordingly. Yet another one destined to go a long way in theatre.
The leading artists were, as expected from this dedicated youth group, well up to their respective roles. Niamh Sweek made a beautiful, spirited Pinky Tuscadero with a strong singing voice. Andrew, The Fonz, her childhood sweatheart does indeed get his girl in the end, after a having mysteriously disappeared but finally turning up just in time to save the day. This though, not before his friend Richie, played sensitively by the young veteran Reuben Lovell, and aided by a reluctant Ralph – Ben Glanville – engage in a most realistic, hard hitting fight with rivals, the Malachi Brothers.
Bobby Oddy who played the role of Marion Cunningham was as light footed as ever and both she and stage husband Howard Cunningham,- Kevin Chance – made a strong pair. Stuart McCourt – Arnold Delvecchio the owner of the doomed drive-in malt shop – will be remembered as one of the very few who projected clearly. Television has spawned a generation of drawing room actors who have lost the art of projection. So it is always a treat listening to the dwindling few who do still speak up
All the other main roles were taken by a new era of the South Wight Youth Theatre, many of whom I had not come across before. other than in the chorus. There was, however, one young man who stood out from amongst this group, Daniel Clarke playing Chachi. He had an eye-catching stage presence, spoke clearly and generally dominated the scenes he was in, so it was quite a relief when, after much `will they won`t they` he, too, finally gets his girl, Joanie Cunningham played by the vivacious Abbie Revert.
Mark Stratton who designed the poster and programme deserves a special mention. The glossy programme, although only two double sheets of A3, contained all the essential information needed, in particular, the details and small photos of the whole cast. This was of added interest and a great help in identifying the various characters, since names are not always mentioned in the actual dialogue on stage.
Pride and Prejudice is the next production by the SWYT and it will be in the Summer, although as yet no actual date has been fixed. The County Press will have the details nearer the time.
Director: Claire Apsey
Choreographer: Bobby Oddy
Musical Director: Michael Grist
By Rita Boffin
Also submitted to NODA’s website