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
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
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.