Nostalgia is usually a sure bet, which is what Tacoma Musical Playhouse was banking on when it got the rights to Happy Days, A New Musical by Garry Marshall and Paul Williams. Based on the TV show, the stage production brings back all the main characters, Ritchie, Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham, Joanie, Chachi, Ralph, Potsi, Mr. Arnold and The Fonz. The play follows one of the recurring plot lines revolving around Arnold's Diner. Arnold is in trouble again and they have to find a way to save their beloved hangout.
The play has no less than eight conflicts making it seem cramped and rushed. The playwright counts on the familiarity of the show and doesn't bother to spend any real amount of time developing characters or the main conflict. Because the story line is not developed, it feels like an outline that's waiting to be fleshed out.
The cast embraced the cheesiness of the play, even some of the more groan-worthy lines. Ritchie noted how he can "usually solve problems in half an hour" and how "Fonz hasn't been the same since he jumped the shark." Imbedding bits of dialogue that is an outside perspective of what is a device that is very hit or miss. These lines definitely invoked chuckles and groans from the audience but made it painfully obvious that this play was nowhere near a half an hour and that, like The Fonz, Happy Days, A New Musical had also jumped the shark.
The cast did a fantastic job with the many dance numbers. It was obvious that a lot of care and time were put into the many group sequences of swing/rock ‘n roll dance moves. The large cast was well rehearsed and seemed to thoroughly enjoy itself. The sets and costumes added to the visual appeal of the production.
Mic issues marred the production. Some were off during lines/songs, and one crackled throughout. Also frustrating was a couple actors with lines did not have mics, and it was difficult to hear them alongside their amplified counterparts.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse advertises Happy Days, A New Musical as a family show and approved for ages four and up. Younger children will probably love the dancing but will most likely be bored with the story and have a difficult time with the length.
Happy Days, A New Musical, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Adults: $27, Senior/Student/Military: $25, 12 & under: $20, 253-565-6867, Fri/Sat 8:00 pm, Sun 2:00 pm, through May 27.