, Muskogee, OK

November 15, 2012

‘Happy Days’ are here again

Hilldale performers bring era – and the TV show – to life

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— Pink poodle skirts, black leather jackets, car hops and a juke box ... ah, it’s the 1950s with our favorite characters from the 1970s hit TV show “Happy Days.”

Students at Hilldale Public Schools are bringing the story to life with “Happy Days — A New Musical” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Hilldale Event Center behind Hilldale High School. Admission is $5 for all ages. Director Stephanie Payne said the musical is being performed in the fall instead of the spring this year.

The show’s got a little bit of everything to keep an audience entertained. There’s some great harmony by The Dial Tones — Tyler Maruca, Zack Martin, Rhyder Jolliff and James Wisenhunt – and a love story with “the kiss.”

“We have amazing talent,” Payne said. “It’s an awesome group.”

There will be no show tonight because the school’s football team has a playoff game. Payne encouraged the cast to cheer on the team and be ready to perform Saturday.

“Save your voices,” she told the cast at dress rehearsal this week.

The show focuses on saving Arnold’s, the local diner, and relationships. There are relationships such as the ones between Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, played by Derek Smith, and Richie Cunningham, played by Jolliff. Fonzie, who is taken in by Howard and Marion Cunningham, Richie’s parents, teaches his young friend about life.

“I feel like we are just one big musical family,” said Jacey Dyer, 12, who plays one of the carhops.

This musical family knows the show must go on. Payne said there has been some sadness when a cast member, Ian Lauderdale, had to deal with the death of his mother, Misty Lauderdale, in a car accident.

“We’re praying for him,” said Smith, 17, a senior. “He’s always in it (the musicals) and it’s tough to have to deal with it.”

Smith, who has been in the school’s musicals since second grade, thinks the show is a lot of fun. He uses the New York accent he used when he was in “Guys and Dolls” a couple of years ago. As for being selected to be one of the leads as Fonzie, he said it’s “kind of an honor.”

Nobody is more excited about Smith being Fonzie than Evan Fitzgerald, who plays Pinky Tuscadero, Fonzie’s love interest. The senior watched “Happy Days” to get the feel of the show.

“I thought Fonzie was hot,” she said between acts at rehearsal.

She thinks Smith makes the perfect Fonzie.

“I enjoy the kiss,” she said, then blushed.

The two share an on-stage kiss. Fitzgerald, 18, is starring in only her second musical and first time to sing solo. As a member of Hilldale’s select choir, she’s usually blends with a group.

“I’m trying to come out of my shell,” she said.

She sings five songs, three as a soloist. Other strong vocalists are Elizabeth DePriest, who plays Marion Cunningham, and her friend, Hannah Roberts, who plays Joanie Cunningham.

“We sing together all the time,” said DePriest, 17, a senior. “The role fits me perfectly. I’m in leadership roles at school and that part comes out.”

DePriest, wearing a brown-and-white polka-dot dress, brings Marion to life with lines such as, “We’re not faking, we’re baking and shaking.” Her best friend, Caitlyn Crissler, who plays Lori Beth, wears a baby blue polka-dot dress. They are beaming and ready to share their fun with an audience.

“I’ve been in the musicals since fifth grade,” said Crissler, 17, a senior. “I love it. This is the best cast. There’s energy. It clicks on stage, with the choir and the band.”

She plays Richie’s girlfriend and watched the show on YouTube clips.

“It’s entertaining for all ages,” she said of the musical.

It’s fun to watch the cast in a dance-off at Arnold’s. Park Ward, 15, a sophomore, plays Arnold. He’s in choir but it’s his first time on stage to act. He did it to get involved. He’s a little nervous so he plays with a yo-yo back stage until it’s time to go on.

“It’s a great show to watch — really entertaining.”

Maruca, 16, a junior, who plays trumpet in the band and is in select choir, is ready to entertain. He came to Hilldale in February from Warner High School.

“It’s my first musical,” he said. “People should come to see the local talent.”

Senior Jacob Ward, 18, isn’t sure he’s talented, but he is doing his first musical to “try something new.”

“I’m an introvert,” he said. “I wanted to show another side. The show is fun with witty humor. It takes you back to the good ol’ days.”

If you go

WHAT: “Happy Days — A New Musical,” Hilldale Public Schools’ all-school musical.

WHEN: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, doors open 30 minutes before the show.

WHERE: Hilldale Event Center, 300 E. Smith Ferry Road.

ADMISSION: $5 per person.


Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli — Derek Smith

Richie Cunningham — Rhyder Jolliff

Potsie Webber — Tyler Maruca

Ralph Malph — Zack Martin

Chachi Arcola — James Whisenhunt

Pinky Tuscadero — Evan Fitzgerald

Joanie Cunningham — Hannah Roberts

Lori Beth Allen — Caitlyn Crissler

Marion Cunningham — Lizzie DePriest

Howard Cunningham — Jacob Ward

Leopard Manny — Joseph Wiedel

Leopard Mac — Ian Lauderdale

Other Leopards — Ben Lewis, Jeremiah Boylin, Mason Jones

Arnold — Park Ward

Count Malachi — Jeremiah Boylin

Jumpy Malachi — Mason Jones

Bully — Ian Lauderdale

Elvis — Mason Jones

James Dean — Joseph Wiedel

Pinkettes — Caitlin Felts, Mikala Bowlin

Calendar Girls — Alexis Gutierrez, Makenna Juntti, Shannon Quinn, Madison Riddle, Kaitlynne Tackett

Carhops — Madison Eckerson, Matty Hurlbert, Jacey Dyer, Tori Payne


Nick Luttrull — lights    

Graham Hayden, Chelsea Gragg — spotlights    

Whitney Durossette — sound            

Wesley Simmerman — stage manager

Elizabeth Chang

Rachel Bell

Cassie Stubbs

Dakotah Thomas

Morgan Moore

Brianna Mustain

Rebecca Justice


Matt Lollman — director/saxophone

Ineta Bebb — keyboard

Derek Gibson — guitar

Steve Thomson — bass

Steve Felts — drums

Sierra Roller, Shelby May — flute

Brianna Paden, Desiree Mitchell — clarinet

Cate York, Jason Cooper — saxophone

Travis Young — trombone

Shelby Duncan, Jonathan Meely — baritone

Trevor Wiedel — trumpet