Happy Days in Sunderland

Amy Anzel, producer of Happy Days
Amy Anzel, producer of Happy Days
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IT’S Happy Days all week at the Sunderland Empire as it gears up to stage a new musical.

From Monday, Ben Freeman from Emmerdale, former Sugababe Heidi Range and presenter Cheryl Baker are stepping into the shoes of iconic characters for a stage adaptation of hit TV show Happy Days.

Producer Amy Anzel called into East Durham’s answer to the show’s Arnold’s diner, Lickety Split in Seaham, to talk about the show.

Amy, who appeared on Channel 4’s The Sound Of Musicals, which documented her journey bringing Happy Days to the stage, said: “Reaction to the tour has been great, everyone has been leaving the theatres singing the theme tune, which we love.”

The New Yorker added: “When I moved to Britain, I saw that nostalgia for 50s Americana was booming here. Shows like Jersey Boys and Grease are really popular in the West End. People embrace it here, more than in America.”

Inspired by audiences’ passion for the era, Amy pitched the idea of a musical version of the TV show to Happy Days, Pretty Woman and Beaches director Garry Marshall.

Five years later, and after enlisting original Fonz Henry Winkler as a creative consultant, the show is on the road and heading to Sunderland on its first tour.

Amy said: “Garry Marshall sat behind me on our opening night and he said it was the best production of Happy Days there could be.”