Still humming tunes from Chanhassen's popular production of "Grease" -- or can't swing those $60-plus tickets?

The Lakeshore Players have another ride gassed up to take you back to the 50s.

The community theatre group, based in White Bear Lake, is currently staging "Happy Days: A New Musical," based on the wildly popular 70s series in which getting a date to the prom was considered a major crisis.

For those checking on community theatre for the first time, a tip: Lower your expectations. These non-profit productions don't have the time, budget, material or experienced hands to compete with the wealth of riches offered by professional troupes across the Twin Cities. Sloppy dance moves, actors straining to hit the high notes and technical gaffes are to be expected.

That being said, there was plenty to like in Thursday's preview performance, and I'm not just referring to the $25 price and free street parking.

Katherine Skoretz, as the finger-snapping Pinky, has a lovely, although limited, singing voice and gave new definition to being pretty in pink. Brian Etienne, who has played drums for Amy Grant and Cat Stevens, is wild-eyed nutso as Howard Cunningham, leaving you convinced that Mr. C should have spent less at the Lodge and more time at the psychiatrist's office.

He does his best to mine laughs out of a musical sorely lacking in wit and nostalgia.

Garry Marshall, who created the TV show and the book for the original 2007 production, does little more than assemble a somewhat traditional episode of the series, with the exception of some nice moments where the female characters do more than scratch at their itch for women's liberation. References to Fonzie jumping the shark and the unexplained disappearance of Richie's older brother, are wasted.

Marshall also picked the wrong collaborator in Paul Williams. As a songwriter, Williams contributed lovely hits to The Carpenters ("We've Only Just Begun") and Kermit the Frog ("The Rainbow Connection"), but irony has never been his strength, something a show like this is crying out for. He also doesn't seem to care much about paying tribute to the '50s sound. Etienne probably experienced more genuine rock while playing skins for Amy Grant.

Still, Williams has a way with words that are well executed in "Run," the goofy tribute to cowards, and the ballad "What I Dreamed Last Night," which Kermit should seriously covering on his next album.

You may not emerge from the show singing the tunes, or even jonesing for episodes of the TV show, but you will feel encouraged by the state of community theatre in Minnesota and the passion your friends and neighbors are pouring into it. To purchases tickets for the production, which runs through May 14 on weekends only, go to

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