Ipswich: Rock around the clock with Happy Days at the New Wolsey

The Fonz gets all the ladies, but rather than getting an attack of the green-eyed monster, actor Richard Thomas’ fianc�e is tickled pink he’s in the show.

“She’s not jealous at all,” laughs the 28-year-old from Trimley. “Rebecca plays one of the Pinkettes. She said it would be fun, something for us to do together.”

The award-winning Ipswich-based Appeal Theatre Group presents the East Anglian premiere of Happy Days at the New Wolsey from tonight until June 30.

Featuring all your favourite characters, it’s written by Garry Marshall, the creator of the original classic American 70s and 80s show which looked back at the youth of the late-1950s with new music from Oscar-winner Paul Williams.

He may play the king of cool, but Richard admits he felt a little nervous auditioning; especially as he’s never set foot inside the theatre, let alone acted on its stage.

“The audience is very close so I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with that. I think one of the good things about a character like the Fonz is you can do a bit of audience interaction; I’m actually very excited now.”

It’s the first time Richard’s set foot on the stage in ten or so years.

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Originally from Manchester, he moved to East Anglia with his parents who thought performing arts and amateur dramatics would be a good way for him to build his confidence and make friends.

He left the boards behind when he went to university and then travelling.

“I never thought about doing it until I moved back here and met Rebecca. She was very much into it; she’s done a lot of pantomimes and things and she said why don’t we give it a go?”

Anything for a quiet life I joke.

“Whatever the boss says,” he laughs.

“You’re never quite sure if it’s going to be really over the top or whether you should just try and play it cool as it were. It’s one of those parts you have to try to embrace; if you don’t go for it you’re not going to do the role any justice,” says Richard of playing the Fonz.

It’s hard to imagine anybody but Henry Winkler in that leather jacket but he’s given the cast and crew the thumbs up.

Winkler sent them the following e-mail: “It goes without saying that all of your talents will SHINE on that stage. Every day, doing an episode of Happy Days was just that. The subject material makes you create a family that then creates a theatrical experience that then lifts the audience spirits. Enjoy yourselves and sing your hearts out. Bee Bop yourselves into a frenzy. I am so sorry I can’t be there to see your creation. But, I know in my heart... THAT YOU WILL BE GREAT, warmly, Henry.”

Richard’s had a blast working with Appeal and promises audiences a great night out.

“It’s lots of fun, got some great jokes and the music self is fantastic. We’ve got a really great choreographer and when you see it all together with the band it’s really something to see.”

Part of this year’s Ip-Art, the show’s directed by John Whelton and choreographed by Suzie Lowe, with musical directing by Jo King.

John says the show is a hilarious romp with music that crosses the age groups, with be-bop, ballads and a lot of up-tempo numbers.

Set in middle-America Milwaukee with Welcome to Wisconsin as the opening number, it is not so much a story as a series of events, he adds. A construction company wants to pull down Arnold’s, the kids’ favourite caf� and meeting place, and turn it into a parking lot; which The Fonz is having none of.

The show’s in support of two local charities - East Suffolk Association for the Blind and the Digestive Disorders Foundation.

Read the review online tomorrow.

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