Weeks before it closes, I got a chance to catch up with Groundhog Day, The Musical.
[I'm tempted to simply repeat the above sentence 28 times but will fight the urge!]
I guess it makes no sense to question why there was an imperative to create a musical out of Groundhog Day, The Film which, in itself, is hardly worthy of such an effort. Unless, that is, you had Bill Murray to star -- again. Asking the question "why" seems churlish.<!--break-->
The show itself is actually pretty good. It's cute. It's fun. It features a tremendously winning performance from the tremendously winning Andy Karl who, truth be told, created a new Phil Connors that didn't have me longing for the iconic Bill Murray. That's quite a feat. And kudos to the super-talented Andy Karl for pulling it off.
If only it was shorter.
At 2:45 (with intermission), it is an hour longer than the movie, and you might say that the movie itself extended the running joke a tad too long.
Along with Andy Karl, the star of the show is director Matthew Warchus who stages and choreographs deja vu in a most entertaining way. The music is serviceable to the story but, like virtually everything that seems to come to Broadway these days (with the exceptions of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and some others) the music is generic and completely unmemorable. The lyrics are a bit better - clever - and several times made me laugh out loud. The orchestra sounded canned - a shame that the live musicians couldn't have been made a part of the on stage show.
Regarding the staging and constantly moving scenery -- the idea is to re-create the camera angles of a movie by changing our perspectives within the same scene. An interesting idea and, fortunately, executed with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Despite lots of high tech video images on stage, the most applause-worthy scenic trick was decidedly low-tech, as cast puppeteers create a 2 police car chase of a pick-up truck through the residential streets of Punxsutawney from a variety of angles and perspectives.
The musical successfully translates the character of Ned Ryerson from screen to stage but is less successful with the characters of producer (and love interest) Rita and cameraman Larry. It does feature a secondary love interest which the film does not, a pretty blonde named Nancy in a break-out performance by Rebecca Faulkenberry.
In certain ways, it's a shame that Groundhog Day is closing. It could have/should have found an audience. But then some folks are likely surprised that there is a Broadway musical called Groundhog Day -- which reflects the vagaries of marketing a Broadway musical.
Apparently Bill Murray saw the show late in the run (and went the next night too) but his endorsement came too late. Which makes me wonder why the producers didn't involve Bill Murray from the very beginning. Give him a "story by" credit, put his name above the title (Bill Murray presents) a la Oprah, feature him on TV and social media commercials exhorting folks to go see the show. Or, if they couldn't get Bill Murray, make iconic advertising choices about repeating things over and over and over and over and over and over...
And cut that running time by an hour. At least. - Mark Weston
Mr. Weston is a cultural gadfly and world famous purveyor of happiness. He lives in New York with his family and dog and occasionally dallies in writing plays.