Andy Karl, scenic and costume designer Rob Howell and Barrett Doss are what keep GroundHog Day The Musical watchable. This almost 3 hour long musical might have been a better show if they had cut an hour of this monotony and gotten to the chase. The book by Danny Rubin (screenwriter of the movie) follows arrogant weatherman, Phil Conners (A charming Andy Karl), as he travels to Punxsutawney, PA, the home of Phil a famous groundhog to report on the big day. Conner from the outset does not want to cover this event and for some reason, that is never explained to us, is forced to repeat this day over and over and over and over. I had not watched the source material, which is based on the popular Bill Murray movie of the same name. I do not know if the film explains why this is happening, but here we are expected to accept this strange premise. In Act 1 Conner realizes he can manipulate the day to get what he wants, except that gets to be a bore. In Act 2, he wants to bed his sweet, innocent co worker Rita Hanson (Barrett Doss) who sees what a jerk he is until finally after so many repeated days, he finally sees the error of his ways and life goes back to normal. The problem is before we get to his revelation, we no longer care.
Groundhog Day at it’s best asks us to see the wonder of life and realize every day no matter how redundant has joy. The problem is it takes almost 3 hours to tell, that in a never ending loop just gets old despite Matthew Warchus, wonderful direction.
Part of the problem is Tim Minchin’s (Matilda), score, which has so many mixed accents and bizarre melodies. They go for crass lyrics and quirky melodic lines, where not one of these ditties is hummable. All I could think of was the Sondheim lyric from Merrily We Roll Along.
There’s not a tune you can hum
There’s not a tune you go bum, bum, bum, di, dum
You need a tune you can bum, bum, bum, di, dum
Give me a melody
Another part of the problem is there are so many characters. An example is ohn Sanders who plays Ned Ryerson, the ‘annoying salesman.’ He gets his own number “Night Will Come.” Why? Rebecca Faulkenberry plays Nancy the pretty blond girl, who gets her own song “Playing Nancy,“ which opens second act. Nice performance, sung well, but again why? We are made to feel something for people we are not invested in.
Peter Darling’s choreography allows the tedious days to flow smoothly and the car chase scene is rather brilliant, if not a little long.
Andy Karl is winning and I can see why he won the Olivier Award, but seriously I do not understand how this won Best Musical. Barrett Doss allows us to care for her, despite a script that is against her. We are thrilled when Conner sees the error of his ways, because we just want this story to end.
This is a show that a lot of audiences will enjoy. There was a lot of laughing around me, however I did not see the humor. You will either like this show or not, as people I have talked to seem just as divided about this show as the election. I do see it being nominated and knocking out a better crafted show.
GroundHog Day The Musical: August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd St.