To See or Not to See: Groundhog Day
The stage adaptation of Groundhog Day is delightful. Between the technical surprises that pepper the show and the absolutely wonderful performance of leading man Andy Karl, it’s a show you could watch over and over.
Phil Connors (Andy Karl) is a famed weatherman who, each year, visits Punsutawney to report on Groundhog Day. Now, Phil is not a nice guy. He’s full of himself, a ladies’ man, and actually loathes having to report on this story. In his first song of the show, he sings:
“Small towns, tiny minds
Big mouths, small ideas…
…There’s nothing more depressing than small town USA
And small don’t come much smaller than
Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day”
On the other hand, his colleague Rita Hanson (Barrett Doss) is excited to be the producer of the segment. She loves everything about Punxsutawney: the friendly locals, the sticky buns at the local diner, and the excitement over Groundhog Day. After they film their segment, a huge blizzard prevents them from leaving town. What happens after, if you’re familiar with the Bill Murray film written by Danny Rubin (who adapted his screenplay for stage), is a repeat of Groundhog Day over and over and over that only Phil relives. He relives it, that is, until he learns to be a good person and fall in love.
Tim Minchin’s (composer & lyrics for Matilda) lyrics are incredibly witty, dark, and sharp. When singing about his despair at still living day after day, Phil sings, “An everlasting farcical disaster, you play your part, you march the march, you don’t complain, you find your way another day.” His music is not as thrilling, though. The songs are quite fun to watch performed live, but the actual tunes are somewhat forgettable after the show is over. Despite that, other stand-outs of the production are the whimsical set by Rob Howell, the brilliant staging by director Matthew Warchus (also from Matilda) and magnificent illusions by Paul Kieve. From an almost life-size truck to little car puppets illustrating a car chase to Phil appearing in his bed, day after day, is nothing short of magic.
Now, on to the acting. Barrett Doss splendidly plays Rita. Torn between wanting a knight in shining armor to find her and knowing it’s more realistic and smart to be self-sufficient, Doss infuses Rita with an openness and love for life that make her character one of the most endearing of the whole show. Andy Karl masterfully keeps each repeated day fresh and new. He nails the snotty personality, sarcastic comments, and smooth charm of Phil with ease; additionally, by the end of the show, audience members are rooting for him because he has turned over a new leaf. It’s even more impressive that Karl does everything he does with a knee injury. Indeed, if this year were not Ben Platt’s to lose for the Tony Awards, I’d bet my money on Andy Karl taking home the Best Actor in a a Musical category.
Needless to say, Groundhog Day is an utter delight. In fact, you’ll be a little sad at having to leave behind Phil Connors and the little town of Punxsutawney when the curtain drops.
For more information on the show and to purchase tickets, click here.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus