Happier days ahead

January 14, 2009
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The best thing about attending "Happy Days" at Clowes Hall last night was seeing the poster for the upcoming LA Theatre Works tour of "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial" and finding out that the great John Heard will be joining Ed Asner in that show.

Not familiar with Heard? If I told you that he was the dad in "Home Alone" and the governor on "Prison Break," does that help?

He's one of the great underserved-by-Hollywood actors in the business. He cut his teeth on the New York stage, with performances in "The Glass Menagerie," "Hamlet" and "Othello" and then gave a string of outstanding performances in the late 70s/early 80s included two great films with Joan Micklin Silver, "Between the Lines" and "Chilly Scenes of Winter" (aka "Head over Heals"). He also was terrific opposite Geraldine Page in "A Trip to Bountiful" and as the bartender in "After Hours." And his performance as a one-legged, one-eyed Vietnam vet who finds misguided purpose in "Cutter's Way" is incomparable. Since then, well, he classes up anything he's in. But the great roles of 20 years ago don't see to be coming his way. A waste.

There's more information on the "Monkey Trial" production--and video of me rambling about the pleasures of LA TheatreWorks--over at www.cloweshall.org. And now, with word of Heard's involvement, I'm even more jazzed to see the show.

As to "Happy Days: The New Musical," the resident at Clowes Hall through Sunday, the less said the better--although I have enormous sympathy for the hard-working company, who do there best with the little they have to work with. Chris Fore exudes charm as Chachi. Felicia Finley is in good voice as Pinky. And Cynthia Ferrer seems to be auditioning for the lead in "The Light in the Piazza" as Mrs. C. I wish them all well.

Your thoughts?
  • The show was a “one-timer” - something I am glad I got to see, but wouldn’t bother to see it again if it came around.

    It was nice to see the familiar characters, although some were definitely more “familiar” than others. The stand out performer was by far Joey Sorge who almost completely nailed The Fonz (with a little Danny Zuko mixed in).

    The music was uninspiring and seemed to drag on and on. The dance numbers were mediocre at best. The villians were cheesy and their ode to their own badness was incredibly long and boring. Still, it had its moments and some good one-liners here and there.

    Well worth the cheap tickets in the balcony, (even if the family in front of us couldn’t keep their kids in their seats), but not worth seeing again.
  • Was never a big Happy Days fan, so I can't comment on that.

    I can, however, remind those late-twentysomethings (like me) that John Heard was also Elizabeth Perkins' jerky co-worker/boyfriend in Big.

    Ah, Big. Good times.
  • Oh, man, I would love to see John Heard in person.

    Hope Baugh
  • Even we late-30-somethings remember Big. In my case, both the movie and the stage show.....I totally remember him, now that you say that, Claire! Seeing Happy Days tonight (part of the season) - sounds like I'll enjoy myself - I love bad theater, as long as I'm prepared for it!
  • Being a season ticket hold for several years, I'm very tired of the lame shows that get mixed in the line up each year. It was really too bad that this show didn't live up to the title. I was expecting a fun, lively show, but that didn't happen. It was just a bad story from the get go. I was expecting to recognize more '50's music. Great actors, but lame show.
  • John Heard also played Bette Midler's first husband in Beaches. I've always thought he was a great actor, and it's nice to read that others even know who he is!
  • Ditto to what Scot said. I remember him from Beaches as much as anything else, including Home Alone. But I also knew he was an accomplished theatre actor. The good ones are. The best actors take breaks from the stage to movies or TV, not the other way around. Glad to see he'll be in Indy.
  • Have to say that the book/music are really at fault in Happy Days - really bad plot, insipid lyrics - but I still enjoyed myself - I laughed so hard, so many times, that my sides hurt when I left. Even laughing at is enjoyable. The cast worked REALLY hard, but I figured they were thinking at least I'm getting paid. As a performer, I can say, you know when you're in a turkey!
  • The worst thing about reading the professional? review of Happy Days by Lou Harry was reading, in advance, MORE about an upcoming presentation than the current assignment.

    The best thing about attending Happy Days, at Clowes Hall, this Sunday afternoon, was the feeling of settling back into the late 50's with a whirlwind of excellent music and spirit.

    To continue: the outstanding performances by Joey Sorge as Fonzie; James Lambert as Ralph; Cynthia Ferrer as Marion; Chris Fore as Chachi, Steven Booth as Richie, and the rest of the hard-working cast, brought fond remembrances of the Cunninghams, and like families of the 50's-60's, to the audience which saw fit to stand in ovation.

    Kudos, as well, to Garry Marshall for his innate knowledge in recognizing the public's need for wholesome and happy entertainment. And a special thanks for the talent of Paul Williams
    who provided the music/lyrics that helped to lift and carry this fast-paced musical, based on the original sitcom, Happy Days. But then, what else could we expect from Mr. Williams?
  • Patty,
    I'm truly glad you enjoyed the show.
  • Just to keep it short and sweet... I would have to say that Happy Days was a very mediocre show, at best... in my opinion.

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