Entertainment & Arts

Happy Days adds Ben Freeman, Cheryl Baker to cast

Cheryl Baker, Ben Freeman and Heidi Range
Image caption The show, set in 1950s America, has been written by the TV series' original creator

Former Emmerdale actor Ben Freeman is to play "The Fonz" in the Happy Days musical set to tour the UK in 2014.

Freeman, who is currently appearing as Fiyero in Wicked, will be joined by former Bucks Fizz singer Cheryl Baker, who has been cast as Mrs Cunningham.

Earlier this year, it was announced that former Sugababes' singer Heidi Range would star as Arthur Fonzarelli's girlfriend, Pinky Tuscadero.

The musical version of the hit US show will run from January until June.

Producer Amy Anzel told The Stage that Freeman had been cast after a "challenging" audition process.

"We saw everyone. And even in the audition, the only person who could do everything convincingly - sing, dance, act and be cool, even though that sounds cheesy - was Ben," she said.

Theme tune

Speaking about Baker's casting, Anzel added: "Cheryl is naturally maternal and warm, and that is exactly what Mrs Cunningham is."

Best known for playing Scott Windsor in ITV's Emmerdale, Ben Freeman's West End credits include the London productions of Dreamboats and Petticoats and Legally Blonde, in which he played Warner.

The Happy Days musical has been written by the creator of the original TV series, Garry Marshall, with Henry Winkler - who starred as Fonzie in the series, as a creative consultant.

It features 21 original songs by Paul Williams, who also composed the scores for the films Bugsy Malone and A Star Is Born, as well as The Carpenters' hits We've Only Just Begun and Rainy Days and Mondays.

It will also feature the famous Happy Days theme tune.

Directed by Olivier Award-nominee Andrew Wright, the tour will begin at Bromley's Churchill Theatre on 13 January, and run until June playing at nearly 20 cities across the UK.

The musical first debuted in the US in 2007, before embarking on a national tour in 2009.

The UK production will be Winkler's first involvement with the project.

He previously served as a creative consultant on another Happy Days musical, which performed a UK regional tour in 1999.

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