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GROUNDHOG DAY


Photo by Joan Marcus
Andy Karl in Groundhog Day
Andy Karl in Groundhog Day
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This week we say goodbye to the Olivier Award-winning "Best Musical" Groundhog Day, which ironically won't be waking up and repeating the same show day after day after September 17, 2017. So, this really is last chance saloon for you to experience this modern classic, which has been re-worked so imaginatively for the stage. And that's why Groundhog Day is once again our #ShowOfTheWeek!

A Broadway performer’s life is, in part, a lot like Groundhog Day. Almost every day they wake up, make the same journey to the same theatre and put on the same show (albeit for a completely different and eager audience each time). They take their bow and drink in their applause thinking “I’ve got to do this all over again tomorrow night.” So I guess it is quite fitting that this adaptation of Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin’s hit 1993 movie made it to the Broadway stage…

Bill Murray’s performance as egotistical TV weatherman Phil Connors is so iconic on film, how could anyone truly make this role their own in the medium of musical theatre? Enter three-time Tony nominee Andy Karl, who won his first Olivier Award for originating the role in London’s world premiere production at the Old Vic. Karl could be considered Broadway’s Superman, having sustained a knee injury on stage during previews and battled his way, in spite of this, through opening night and the gruelling schedule to earning a well-deserved Tony nomination. Karl is to be commended for his guts and his talent in equal measure. To refer to Groundhog Day as a “One Man Show” would be disrespectful to this wondrous ensemble, many of whom get their moment to shine, but the pace of the show depends greatly on its leading man. As scenes (inevitably) repeat themselves, it is Karl who magnetically draws the audience’s gaze to his varied reactions of déjà vu. His all-consuming charisma makes us care about the character’s journey, even though he is initially an a**hole.

The creative team behind Groundhog Day include many of those genius minds that conjured up the musical theatre spectacle that was Matilda – including director Matthew Warchus, composer/lyricist Tim Minchin, and designer Rob Howell. Once again, these men have taken a very popular piece of source material and created something organically theatrical from it. The staging of Groundhog Day uses a plethora of beautifully executed theatre tricks to move the narrative along. I don’t wish to spoil every secret here, but my personal highlights of the show include an onstage car chase and a montage of Phil trying to end his own life in every imaginable way. In fact, when I saw the show, I had a rare moment of ecstasy which doesn’t happen all that often, when I suddenly feel so grateful for being able to receive the gift of theatre. One segment of the show – revolving around a fairground ride – was so magically crafted that I felt quite overcome. The twirling carts went into slow-motion during a musical interlude and coupled with Hugh Vanstone’s lighting effect behind, the creation was theatre at its utmost best.

Tim Minchin is known for jam-packing his melodies with as much tongue-twisting, vocabulary as humanly possible. He doesn’t disappoint here either. Case in point would be the musical number “Stuck” where various “Healers” try to “cure” Phil with every traditional and new age type of medication you could think of. It’s pure comedy genius, stuffed into a song, and brought to life for your enjoyment. I look forward to Mr. Minchin’s next musical venture with great anticipation.

My hat also goes off to choreographer Peter Darling and co-choreographer Ellen Kane, who took on the mammoth task of herding the ensemble through repeated scenes and variations of choreography that will seem familiar to the audience, yet not quite identical. The blocking of this musical must have been a logistical nightmare and somehow they have pulled it off like a rousing, recurring dream!

All in all, Groundhog Day is simply a show you’ll want to see again… and again… and again… and again! But remember, you only have this final week to do so on the Great White Way!

Click here for tickets to Groundhog Day for performances through to September 17, 2018 at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre.

- by Tom Millward

Production Details
Venue: August Wilson Theatre
Genre: Musical Comedy
Previewed: 16 Mar 2017
Opened: 17 Apr 2017
Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
Book: Danny Rubin, based on the screenplay by Harold Ramis & Danny Rubin
Director: Matthew Warchus

Synopsis: Groundhog Day is the story of Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, when sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself caught in a time loop where he is forced to repeat the same day again and again... and again. As each day plays out exactly the same as before Phil becomes increasingly despondent, but is there a lesson to be learned through his experiences, will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?

Cast: Andy Karl (Phil Connors), Barrett Doss (Rita Hanson), Rebecca Faulkenberry (Nancy) and John Sanders (Ned Ryerson)

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