Happy Days are here again: Henry Winkler, who played The Fonz, inset, dropped in to help the cast of Happy Days – A New Musical, which stars Heidi Range (left).IT IS three decades since he wore Fonzie's leather jacket, but there is still a twinkle in Henry Winkler's eyes. The American actor joined in rehearsals for a tour of Happy Days – A New Musical.
And for Heidi Range, who will be starring in the show when it tours to Hull, the veteran performer has lost none of his style.
"After all this time you could still see a bit of Fonzie in him," said Heidi, who met Winkler at the London rehearsals. "He was helping us to understand the characters and the relationships between them.
"It was great to have his involvement, as not many people know the show as well as he does. He was so nice you didn't feel nervous around him at all."
Heidi, formerly of the pop band Sugababes, is taking the role of Pinky, Fonzie's girlfriend, in the musical.
"She's pretty feisty," said Heidi.
"Pinky's not an argumentative character but she doesn't take any rubbish."
The show is based on the long-running television series, which was screened between 1974 and 1984.
Set in the 1950s, Happy Days followed the lives of a group of American teenagers.
It was created by Garry Marshall, who has also written the story for this musical version.
The show features songs by Paul Williams, an Oscar-winning composer who wrote songs for films including Bugsy Malone.
Winkler is acting as the creative consultant on the musical, which, in a recent radio interview, he described as a "very emotional" story.
Featuring characters including Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, played by former Emmerdale actor Ben Freeman, the storyline follows the attempts to save the friends' hangout, Arnold's Diner, from demolition.
Cheryl Baker, who came to fame in the Eighties band Bucks Fizz, has also joined the cast in the role of Marion Cunningham, the wife of town's hardware store owner.
Among the ensemble is the Hull actress Grace Holdstock, who began her performing career with the Northern Theatre Company.
After training at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Grace went on to appear in shows including the Queen musical, We Will Rock You.
The actors assembled for rehearsals in Bromley, south-east London, this month, where Winkler made an appearance.
His involvement came about when Amy Anzel, an American-born producer, decided to bring the show to Britain, after noticing the success of "Fifties Americana" shows in the West End.
Amy approached Winkler at a book signing in London, and invited him to become a part of the production.
Unusually, Happy Days – A New Musical was partly financed by "crowdfunding".
This saw it raise £250,000 from 345 online investors, each of whom will get a share of the profits.
The finished musical will tour 20 cities, including five days of performances at Hull New Theatre from Tuesday, January 28.
"It was one of those TV shows that, even if you weren't born when it was first shown on television, it has always been on somewhere," said Heidi. "It seems like it has always existed." • Entertainment news from the Hull Daily Mail