Blue Canoe takes trip back to the 1950s with Happy Days: A New Musical

Cast members from Blue Canoe’s production of Happy Days: A New Musical. Rowan Engen plays Fonzie (centre). Standing, left to right: Finlay Evans, Astrid Erb, Emma-Grace Pritchett. On floor, left to right: Sophia Brodie, Hailey Hatfield. Submitted photo.

This August, Kingston’s Blue Canoe Productions will transport audiences back to 1950s Milwaukee, as the company presents Happy Days: A New Musical, introducing the beloved Cunningham family to a new generation of fans. The show is based on the popular 1970s American sitcom and features many of the series’ recognizable characters and settings. The musical, which debuted in 2007, was written by Garry Marshall, creator of the original television series. 

According to Cam Watson, managing director of Blue Canoe, the decision to mount a production of Happy Days came as a result of the company’s director search process. She said, “What we do is, we have directors pitch what they want to do, so we interview [prospective] directors and pick from there. So our director [for this show], Brennan Michener, picked [Happy Days] because it was actually a show that his high school did… and he always wanted to be a part of it in another way.”

Rowan Engen as Fonzie (behind) and Celine Gadoury as Pinky (front). Submitted photo.

In terms of the story, Happy Days: A New Musical takes the familiar environment from the television show and crafts an all-new original adventure. The musical opens with the gang’s beloved Arnold’s Drive-In at risk of demolition. In order to save their popular hangout spot, the kids organize a dance contest and wrestling match, which leads to an unforgettable evening of family-friendly entertainment. 

Watson remarked, “As a company, we just love the positive messages, the aspects of fun, and kind of throwing back to some happy days. We thought it was a good fit for our company, especially for our members who are [currently] in their 20s going into their 30s, and then [there are] also opportunities for our younger youth as well, who are in high school.” 

As a company, Blue Canoe aims to create artistic opportunities for youth under 30 in the Kingston region. “The mandate is just to create as many opportunities for our youth as possible. All of the [artists] in the production are between the ages of 13 and 30, and that also goes for our production team,” said Watson. In total, Blue Canoe has recruited more than 50 artists for Happy Days

While the actors and musicians on stage may get most of the recognition, the production has also created opportunities for youth to work backstage, taking on duties like set design and wardrobe. According to Watson, the organization often looks to pair younger inexperienced theatre artists with those who have been involved in productions in the past, “so that they have the opportunity to learn and grow these skills as they move through the theatre.” 

Lily Foyers as Joanie Cunningham, (right). Background left to right: Celine Gadoury, Emma-Grace Pritchett. Submitted photo.

In terms of the artists involved in Happy Days, Watson said there is a mix of experienced Blue Canoe alumni and some first-timers. “We have a group of cast members that have a lot of experience, who have been doing musical theatre for some time. And we [also] have a group of high school kids who have only been doing musical theatre for a few years because of COVID, so it’s great to see that kind of mentorship evolve through the rehearsal process.” 

Happy Days: A New Musical opens on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. at Domino Theatre (52 Church Street). The production then runs nightly until August 6, with additional matinees at 1 p.m. on August 5 and 6. After a two-day break, Happy Days returns on August 9 for three consecutive evening performances, before ending its run with a matinee on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, at 1 p.m. 

Tickets can be purchased online, with additional information available on the company’s website.

Kingstonist is pleased to give away a pair of tickets to the August 10 performance of Happy Days to one lucky subscriber!

  • Giveaway: A pair of tickets to the Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023 performance of Happy Days: A New Musical
  • To enter the contest: Subscribers, please email your first and last name and phone number to [email protected], using the subject line “Happy Days Musical”
  • Contest runs from Tuesday, Jul. 18 to Monday, Aug. 7, 2023.
  • Draw will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, and the winner will be contacted by Kingstonist staff via email.
  • Not yet a Kingstonist subscriber? Subscribe here!

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