Have you ever had the sense of deja vu? You think to yourself, I’ve been here before or I remember this moment already happening. But have you ever had to live one day over and over again for the rest of your life? For one weatherman, Groundhog Day becomes one endless loop of deja vu that he can’t escape!
February 2nd Happens Every Night at the August Wilson Theatre
The classic Bill Murray comedy has finally hit the Broadway stage! Based on the original movie, Groundhog Day follows weatherman Phil Connors as he takes the dreaded trip to Punxsutawney, Philadelphia to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration. It might be the fact that a groundhog predicting the weather is insulting to his profession, but regardless this is not Phil’s favorite holiday.
Next to the saccharine sweet residents of Punxsutawney, Philadelphia, Phil is every bit the opposite of these small town folks. He’s sarcastic, biting, hating every bit of small town life, and can’t wait to get the heck out of there. However, it’s not his day when a snowstorm blows in and causes a time warp for everybody in Punxsutawney. Phil is doomed to live this same Groundhog Day over and over and over again. Will he eventually learn his lesson and get back to his normal life or will he be stuck in his own personal hell forever?
No Groundhogs Were Kidnapped in the Making of this Musical
Groundhog Day is not exactly like the movie, but it’s pretty darn close. For starters, our Phil Connors, played by Andy Karl, is perhaps even more snarky than Bill Murray was (if that’s even possible). And like most adaptations, some familiar moments did not manage to make it into the musical. We do miss the groundhog kidnapping and the morning wake up call to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” both iconic to this film.
Other than these little details, the storyline is nearly identical. Phil needs to learn how to not be so self-centered in order to get out of this repetitious day. He’s aided by producer, Rita, who unbeknownst to her, becomes his love interest and catalyst for change. All of the other theatrical elements bring this movie to another level on the Broadway stage.
Cue the Orchestra and Roll on the Sets
The music of Groundhog Day shows the different stages of Phil’s journey of self-discovery - going from sarcastic, to self-serving, to suicidal, to finally a changed man. In the jazzy “Philandering,” Phil swaggers as he takes full advantage of his stuck situation by stealing money, blowing off work, and figuring how to get Nancy to sleep with him. When he feels hopeless, we listen to the rock ballad “Hope” and watch Karl attempt suicide through various methods in a darkly humorous scene.
Barrett Doss also has touching moments as Rita especially during “If I Had My Time Again.” She shows Phil a new timeline he hasn’t seen before in his endless days and opens his eyes to something new. It gives us the opportunity to see Phil’s feelings for Rita grow into something more than a passing crush.
The set, designed by Rob Howell, moves flawlessly with the action happening onstage. The rotating stage is the perfect vehicle to recreate each day as Phil’s room spins open to wake him up day after day. Howell also got creative with other notable scenes from the movie that you’d think wouldn’t make it onstage. The high-speed chase uses a movable truck piece as Phil tries to outrun the following police. We are then transported to viewing this chase from above as model cars run through the makeshift city streets. An outstanding and exciting visual!
Small Town Kookiness
The characters in this play seem to be as opposite each other as possible. We ask ourselves, can these people of Punxsutawney really be these obnoxiously optimistic? Is Phil Connors really that over-the-top mean?
The ensemble is a kooky cast ranging from Ohio residents with groundhogs on their heads, to Phil’s biggest fans, Debbie and Fred, and of course the well-intentioned Ned Ryerson. They’re all fun to watch and offer great support to our main characters.
For this writer, they don’t necessarily read as natural portrayals of people, but because they act as a foil to Phil, they’re necessary to see his dramatic change of heart.
In the end, Groundhog Day is a heartwarming rom-com as it gives more voice to the more minor characters than in the movie. We start to see these small town residents in a new light just as Phil does. It’s great for those who are fans of the film because it captures the same repetitious feeling without being tedious as it adds new moments to the mix. Groundhog Day is also constantly moving keeping us engaged with the action, which makes it a good fit for anyone looking to catch a traditional Broadway show.
Groundhog Day has an open run
August Wilson Theatre
245 W 52nd St.
New York, NY 10019