Happy Days indeed – and just what the doctor ordered, a lovely throw-back to sunnier, happier times, all delivered with bundles of energy and style.
Maybe it’s all just a little bit slow to get into its stride, and certainly with its slightly-thin content and as-yet-unfamiliar music, it’s not yet ready to challenge the biggies that evoke the era, such as Grease and Hairspray.
But there’s much to commend this show with its cheery “It’s OK to have a few weaknesses” type message.
The musical, harking back to the cult TV series, plonks the unforgettable ‘King of Cool’ Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli on stage at a time of crisis for his local café. It needs to raise cash – or disappear. But is The Fonz the man for the moment?
Complicating it all is the reappearance of old flame Pinky Tuscadero (Heidi Range)... and The Fonz’s own sudden disappearance.
As yet, Ben Freeman possibly isn’t doing quite enough to persuade that this character is magnetism on two legs, someone who truly stands out in a puddle of his own charisma, but it’s early days yet in these Happy Days.
Southampton’s performance suggested a cast that was still finding its feet to an extent – and they do so much more so in a second half which lifts the game.
Bright, refreshing and fun, this is surely a show that will grow as the tour continues.