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Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 11:45 GMT


The Fonz stays cool in the UK

Fonzie and Marion in a scene from Happy Days the TV series

Leather jackets and hair grease return as the original Fonz brings a flavour of 1950s America to 1990s Britain.

Henry Winkler, who played the original cool guy Arthur "the Fonz" Fonzarelli in the 1970s comedy Happy Days, is in London to advise the actors in a brand new musical.

The stage musical Happy Days is the first live theatrical show based on the Paramount television hit.

It has its world premiere on Wednesday 3 February at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, before touring and a later transfer to London's West End.

Hey, it's the Fonz - or is it?

[ image: The Fonz makes friends with a British bobby]
The Fonz makes friends with a British bobby
Viewers in the 1970s may have had doubts about Mr Winkler's youth credentials even then - the leather-clad Fonzie was always a little more mature than the impressionable teens he wowed.

Now aged 53, Mr Winkler will be leaving the motorbike riding to a more youthful Craig Urbani who will play the Fonz on stage.

Mr Winkler said of the 27-year-old actor, "Hey, he's sensational."

Despite his youth, Mr Urbani is a 1950s veteran because he has just finished playing Buddy Holly in Buddy.

The actor auditioned for Happy Days without a script by recreating what he remembered of the Fonz from watching it as a teenager.

"The first time I played the Fonz in front of Henry I was terrified, to say the least.

"But he was great. He told me to remember that although the Fonz was the coolest dude, he also had standards, and he cared about his friends, so I have to remember that sensitivity," he said.

Returning to the soda fountain

[ image: Henry Winkler gets the thumbs up from the new Fonzie, Craig Urbani]
Henry Winkler gets the thumbs up from the new Fonzie, Craig Urbani
The musical will feature songs such as Rock Around The Clock and See You Later Alligator and the theme tune from Happy Days.

Although the original series was first conceived of as a vehicle for the Fonz, Mr Winkler denied that his character was the centre of attention in the series.

"There was no show without the Cunninghams and Richie, without that balance there would have been nothing. I would just have been walking around saying: `Hey' the whole time."

As well as starring in the show, which ran from 1974 -1984, Mr Winkler continues to work as a film and TV actor, producer and director.

The Happy Days musical is produced by British backers AMG, E&B and Paul Nicholas & David Ian Associates, the team behind hits including Buddy, Grease, Annie and Saturday Night Fever.

They are all hoping that the public's large appetite for nostalgia will guarantee the show's popularity.

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