Those of you who watched Channel 4’s The Sound Of Musicals will remember the passionate producer of Happy Days – A New Musical, Amy Anzel. Ahead of the show coming to us it was great to get this glimpse behind the scenes and to see the enthusiasm of the woman making it all happen. Now, the day has arrived when the show opens with us!
We catch up with Amy ahead of opening night to hear more about her experiences with the show so far…
What first inspired you to bring the Happy Days musical to life in the UK?
I was an actress in the developmental workshops of the show back in 2004 and 2005. At this point, Garry Marshall, the creator of the TV show, was in the process of turning the TV show into a musical. I was fortunate enough to be cast in the workshops, which was when I fell in love with the show.
After moving to the UK upon marrying a lovely Scotsman in 2009, I noticed that 1959 Americana was doing really well on the West End – Grease, Jersey Boys, and Hairspray were all running, so I thought that Happy Days belonged in the UK as well.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
There have been so many challenges along the way. As a first-time lead producer, I found that many people were skeptical and didn’t believe the things I was saying. I was constantly having to prove myself. Also, I found a lot of people were trying to take advantage of me and thought I had no idea what I was doing. On top of that, this business is quite closed, so I had to push really hard. In the end, I got there thanks to hard work, tenacity, and my thick skin!
It was great seeing behind the scenes with Channel 4’s The Sound Of Musicals, how was that experience for you?
I was really grateful that I was able to be a part of the documentary series. It was so helpful with regards to our publicity, which for a first-time producer and for a new musical, was priceless. In addition, I’m so pleased that the public was able to see what goes on behind the scenes and also just how difficult it is to get a show up and running.
What do you love about this production of Happy Days – A New Musical?
I am so proud of this production. I think everything (set, costumes, talent, direction, and choreography) comes together so well and lend themselves to a really enjoyable day or night out at the theatre. The cast are incredibly talented. I am still blown away by the singing and dancing in the show! I also love the nostalgic element as well as the fact that the whole family, from grandparents to small children, can enjoy the show together.
The characters from the TV series were much loved – what’s been the audience reaction to seeing Ben, Cheryl and the rest of the cast take on the roles?
When we were casting the show, it was important to us that the actors we cast would resemble and remind the audience of the TV actors. It might have taken a bit longer to find the perfect cast, but it was worth it in the end.
Cheryl Baker could not be a more perfect Mrs. Cunningham as not only does she resemble Marion Ross, but she is just as warm and maternal. Pinky Tuscadero, Fonzie’s love interest, played by Heidi Range, was only in a few episodes of the TV show, so we had more room with regards to her casting as people don’t tend to remember what she looked like on the show.
The Fonz, played by Ben Freeman, was the most challenging role to cast, as it’s virtually impossible to find someone that looks like Henry Winkler and can sing, dance, act, and do a convincing American accent. However, as Ben worked one on one with Henry, who was our Creative Consultant, he really exudes Henry Winkler’s Fonz while also making the role his own, which is the perfect combination!
What are your hopes for the future of the show?
I am currently exploring various next steps for the show including the West End. As the TV show was broadcast in 126 countries and the nostalgic element has proven to be a big draw, I think the show has a promising future. Audiences have been loving the show throughout the tour, so I do hope to continue to be able to entertain many more.
What makes you happy?
I know it sounds cheesy, but I absolutely love seeing audiences enjoying the show. To hear audiences laughing and seeing the great big smiles on their faces, makes me so happy! I especially love seeing them on their feet at the end of the show dancing in the aisles.
Happy Days – A New Musical plays at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury from Tuesday 27 – Saturday 31 May.