Happy Days musical comes to Bluefield High School

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 17, 2014

When Stacey Bondt and her production team were looking for a musical to mount at Bluefield High School last fall, her thoughts turned to her own acting experience as a teenager.

"I played Cha Cha in Grease when we did it here in 2007. We had such a blast. So I thought, ‘wouldn't it be great to do another ‘50s-style musical?' Then someone found a script," says the former student-turned-director for Happy Days: A New Musical, which hits the boards of Bluefield High School, April 24-26.

"Set in the same era, it's relevant to teens. It's a happy, upbeat show."

The lively musical is based on the successful television sitcom that ran from January 1974-September 1984 on ABC. The show reunites one of America's best-loved families, Richie and Joanie Cunningham and their parents, along with Potsie, Ralph Malph, Chachi as well as Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli.

"It's great that people know what the show's all about. For me the challenge is finding the balance between the classic show that everybody knows and loves, and the (Bluefield) production where we're putting our own unique spin on things."

Set in Milwaukee in 1959, the plot revolves around the famed drive-in malt shop, Arnold's. It is in danger of demolition so the young people come together to save it with a dance contest and TV-worthy wrestling match.

"It's the classic struggle of teen romance, the dynamics between a ‘50s family and young people discovering who they are," said Bondt.

Similarly, the 27 students in the show are having fun discovering their characters.

After dying his hair black and doing extensive research, Danny MacKinnon believes he's found his inner Fonz.

"In the research stage I asked my director and producer what they thought of the Fonz and how he acted. I also talked to my parents because they both watched the show before. Then I watched multiple episodes of Happy Days to discover Fonz's personality."

But it wasn't until he saw his costume that the transformation was complete.

"Once I put the leather jacket on, it made me feel amazing."

Actor Meg MacArthur also enjoys discovering her character, Pinky.

"It's awesome because she's so unlike me. She's sassy and outgoing. It's a fun role."

Colin Kelly is also having fun playing the lead, Richie Cunningham.

"I like that he's a young, witty, all-round funny guy. He's given me a few joke lines that I'm really excited about."

Watching as the elements of the show come together is exciting for the first-time director, who has been volunteering with musicals at the school since 2007.

"Going from go-fer to actor to stage manager to director is amazing. So I got to see every aspect (of theatre), which helped so much. I understand what (the kids) are going through as well as what people that are watching are going through.

"And this year, as director, I'm learning even more."

Bluefield High School students playing the Cunningham family rehearses a scene from Happy Days. From left: Jordan MacLean, Megan Ellands, Jenna Miller and Colin Kelly.

©Sally Cole