I recently had the chance to see “Groundhog Day: The Musical” on Broadway. Nominated for 7 Tony Awards this year, including Best Musical, it opened on Apr. 17 and will be closing Sept. 17. If you’re planning a trip to The Big Apple in the next few weeks, I highly recommend you see it.
“GD: The Musical” debuted in London in April 2016, with actor Andy Karl in the lead role of TV weatherman Phil Connors. Karl has been reprising Connors on Broadway, and he received his third Tony nomination this year for his performance. Just a few days before opening night, Karl tore his ACL on stage and finished that preview with a cane. Karl returned for opening night – impressing theater critics and audiences.
You don’t necessarily have to have seen – or be a big fan of – the musical’s source material: the 1993 classic comedy “Groundhog Day”, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. The core story is taken directly from the screen to the stage by the writer Danny Rubin. But the “Groundhog Day” saga, of Connors living the same day over and over again, is greatly expanded in the live musical version.
Even if you’re someone who has watched “Groundhog Day” the movie over and over again – and think you know it inside and out – you won’t see much of “Groundhog Day: The Musical” coming. Connors is made-out to be much more unlikable, especially in the first half, and Karl gives the character a monstrous amount of meat and anger. And the show takes a sharp dramatic turn at the start of the second act and never looks back. The final hour contains songs that are staggeringly powerful, and some of them are so good they work well outside of this story.
Karl pounds through the show like a tenacious boxer in the ring (no wonder he previously played Rocky on Broadway). Barrett Doss, as segment producer Rita, is also stellar. The set design and choreography (which includes more than just dancing, but also standing/placement, walking, running and turning – on a stage with a large, central turntable) is intricate and dazzlingly complex.
I met most of the cast outside after the show, including Karl and Doss, who co-stars with Chadwick Boseman in the biopic “Marshall”, out Oct. 13. She told me she really enjoyed working with Boseman, calling him “a very committed actor”. Bill Murray [finally] attended the show – for two straight nights – just a week before I did. One of the ushers pointed out his seat for me.
There are plans for a traveling production of “Groundhog Day: The Musical” beginning sometime next year. But if you want to truly experience the magic, make plans to see it on Broadway before the curtain falls for good on Sept. 17. (Note: due to some mature language and subject matter, including sex, drinking, suicide and other causes of death, the show is not intended for children.)