Pinky, Shortcake and the Fonz on stage: perfectamundo!


Actually, from what I read in The New York Times and Variety, it seems that Happy Days, the musical based on the 1970s television show, is not quite perfect, -amundo or otherwise. According to Variety, it is a “limp Grease retread.” But still, if you grew up with Happy Days, it’s hard to not be at least a little charmed by the prospect of Fonzie and the rest of the Happy Days gang dancing and singing at New Jersey’s Papermill Playhouse.

Penned by Happy Days creator, Garry Marshall (brother of Penny Marshall), the musical has the gang throwing a fund-raising dance contest and wrestling match (I don’t know whether this is one event or two) to save their hangout, Arnold’s, from demolition. Most of the major characters appear: all of the Cunninghams (sans Chuck), Potsie, Ralph, Lori Beth and, of course, Fonzie. And then there are some characters who played minor but memorable roles on the show, including the Malachi brothers and, most important, Pinky Tuscadero.

Let’s be frank. The Tuscadero sisters (Pinky and Leather) are what many of us remember best from Happy Days.

Pinky (Roz Kelly) and Leather (Suzi Quatro) never appeared together on the show (Pinky was only in three episodes), but they were the only non–gender-conforming women on the show. Pinky was Fonzie’s partner in a Demolition Derby and Leather was a rock star — who had done time in reform school! (She was such a dyke, even though she went on a date with Ralph once.) The major plot point around Pinky was that Fonzie respected but felt emasculated by her strength and independence. He called off their engagement when he realized he would be seen as “Mr. Pinky Tuscadero.” (Pretty much the exact same dynamic played out between Tom Cody and Ellen Aim (Michael Paré and Diane Lane) in Streets of Fire).

Leather, unfortunately, does not appear in the musical, but Pinky is back. The relationship between Pinky and Fonzie is the central relationship in the show. And, by all reports, Fonzie is the central character.

Fonzie was not originally intended to be the star of the TV show, but he eventually rose to insane heights of popularity. (He was clearly the star of the animated spinoff, Fonzie and the Happy Days Gang.)

Fonzie evolved into an almost superhuman character. Every girl/woman wanted him. (I always wondered whether we were supposed to think he had actually had sex with them.) Every boy/man admired him. He was reputed to have extraordinary strength. And he eventually solved everyone’s problems. He became an archetype of the sexually omnipotent savior.

I watched both Queer as Folk and The L Word from the beginning. During the second season of The L Word, in particular, I was mystified by what they were doing with Shane.

Everyone wanted her. Everyone. She hooked up with twins. Ostensibly straight women chased her. She miraculously solved problems on the movie set. And then it came to me: She was Fonzie. And then there was Brian on Queen as Folk. Every man wanted him. He single-handedly saved Pittsburgh from the evil police chief. Again, that Fonzie archetype was in play.

None of which, of course, has anything to do with Happy Days: The Musical, but it’s still kind of fun to ponder, don’t you think? If you’re in the vicinity of northern New Jersey and would like to attend the show, you can get tickets here.

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