Happy Days on National Tour

Like the old American TV show on which it's based, this musical version of Happy Days is simple, uncomplicated, unpretentious fun for all the family.

The plot, something about a devious scheme to close Arnold's diner, would barely stretch over a half-hour episode on the telly let alone sustain a stage show lasting two-and-a-half hours. So the accent is very much on the toe-tapping musical numbers, featuring a chartful of old 60s and 70s hits, together with the impersonations of characters we know and, judging by the audience reaction, love from the box.

There's some nonsense about us watching a recording of the TV show Happy Days which seems merely a way of prolonging matters by encouraging us to whoop, holler and applaud every time someone makes an entrance.

Craig Urbani has the Fonz down to a T - he s the very essence of cool, although still susceptible to the charms a knicker-flashing femme fatale from city hall. Urbani, who formerly starred on the West End in Buddy, really is a good singer and dancer but, sadly, gets scant chance to demonstrate that until the finale. It seems a shame that his musical talents are kept hidden under the Fonz's leather jacket for most of the evening.

Stephen Dean works hard and sings well as eager Richie Cunningham, well supported by Nik Martin and Kev Orkian as sidekick pals Potsie and Ralph. And Roger Kitter and Carol Ball are enough fun as Richie's parents Howard and Marion to make you wish they had more to do in the show.

Steve Pratt

Happy Days, the musical, received its world premiere on 3 February 1999 at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, Kent, and will tour until 10 July 1999 to Glasgow, Norwich, Cardiff, Manchester, Southampton, Birmingham, Southend, Bradford, Nottingham, Darlington, Llandudno, Sheffield, Belfast, High Wycombe and Woking before an expected transfer to the West End.