Olivier Award Winner for Best Musical and Best Actor In A Musical For Andy Karl!
Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Musical!
Based on the Book by Danny Rubin
Directed by Matthew Warchus
Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Choreography by Peter Darling
Co-Choreography by Ellen Kane
Set and Costume design by Rob Howell
Orchestration, Additional Music and Musical Supervisor Christopher Nightingale
Lighting by Hugh Vanstone
Sound by Simon Baker
Illusions by Paul Kieve
Additional Movement by Finn Caldwell
Video by Andrezj Goulding
Casting by David Grindrod CDG
Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? Chances are good if you are in anywhere other than Bosnia-Herzegovina or Rwanda you just rolled your eyes at me. (Not trumpist question — countries with the fewest televisions per capita and probably the best conversational skills per capita.) Everyone has seen Groundhog Day, at least ten times. It’s that kind of movie, the kind you watch every time you stumble onto it while channel-surfing, or when someone pulls out the DVD and says, “How about this?”
Have you seen “Groundhog Day,” the musical? What? No eye-rolling now. More sitting forward in your seats or shaking your head in disgust. This is either a good idea or the world’s worst idea, you’re probably thinking. But, I can almost certainly guarantee you didn’t say yes, did you? You haven’t seen the musical.
I have. And it may be the greatest idea since Bill Murray became a weatherman. This is what people are going to be bitching about not getting ticket to this summer after they give up on “Hamilton.”
I got so lucky. Little did I know when I plunked down £90 for an evening performance of “Groundhog Day” that I was going to have the best time I’ve ever had at the theatre. My name is Lisa and I am a hopeless theatre junkie. I’ve learned that if you are looked at the theatre options you have to strongly consider anything at the Old Vic, the industry standard for quality productions. When I saw what was there I just had to go. Hence, the price tag; “I just had to” may be Latin for “just take my credit card.” Now that I know what I know I’m truly sorry that the highest ticket prices in New York are an exorbitant $390; that puts live theatre out of the reach of most of the public and that is unfair and keeps this country from being anywhere near on a par with other countries in the arts.
So, no complaining about what I paid. (I’d do it again!) Instead, let me tell you how it felt as I looked up at those TV screens broadcasting weather reports brought to us by a very familiar face. Let me rephrase that: familiar to me. The young woman next to me and I had been chatting and when that face came up I kept telling her that’s not who they got. They couldn’t have gotten him. He’s huge in the States. They should have changed the video, because that’s definitely not who they got. She had no idea who he was. I was soon to find out that, like Preacher, the news hadn’t gotten around yet. It most definitely him.
Could he do it though? Could he be Phil Connors? Would he outdo Bill Murray? Yes. Yes. Of course, not, he made an entirely new Phil Connors. A slicker, smoother guy to fill out that mic and sing and dance, in addition to being a talented actor. (We’ve all heard Bill Murray sing and no one wants to sit through two hours of that, no matter how much we all love him.) Now, Andy Karl was born to take this role to its natural spotlight. I’ll be putting some money down on the Tony Awards this year…
It was hard to picture how you would take a movie that ranges all over a small town, changing just a little bit every day, repeating over and over, and take that to the stage. You have the brilliant work of set designer Rob Howell and illusions designed by Paul Kieve to thank for that. You know I can’t do spoilers, but the way all of that was achieved delighted the audience throughout the performance and was a big part of what made the show so damn much fun!
How do you make it a musical? You get Tim Minchin to do the music and lyrics, of course. He hit it out of the park with “Matilda” and this is even better. Really. Really better. The lyrics tell the story, obviously, but they are smart and funny, with a perfect flow that continues the rhythm of the comedy. One thing that impressed me over and over was the timing that allowed me to laugh at each rich inside joke without missing the next one. No one ever thinks of that! But, Minchin, star of musical comedy, actor (Californication), writer, composer, director, producer, would.
The cast was almost perfection. For a small town full of bumpkins, insurance salesmen, groundhog worshippers, and pick-up trucks, they sure did have some astonishing voices. In one particular almost identical night in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil is hanging out with the same three gents, all bemoaning life in general until they break out in song and then they break out– Forget I said that last part. These actors are made up to look exactly like what you would expect to find in a watering hole on a weekend night in a nowhere kind of place, and then they start singing. My word, sweet harmony! And that was the way with number after number; part of me was fearing there might be a sour note in there to make the transition from screen to stage a clinker, but every minute just added another moment of…well…pure entertainment.
I cannot wait for U.S. audiences to see it. Especially since the one negative note in the entire production and the reason why I said the cast was “almost perfect” is not going with the production to Broadway. Lucky you, this time. The part of Rita, Phil’s producer and love interest, a small town girl herself, with a sweet, positive personality that immediately gets crushed by Phil’s cynical behaviour was portrayed beautifully by Andie MacDowell in the film. She is a wonderful counterpart to Bill Murray’s wiseass, bored prima donna who cannot appreciate the simple pleasures Puxsutawney has to offer as she can. It was a role MacDowell gave an optimistic, unspoiled air without coming of forced or Pollyanna, at all.
Unfortunately, the lovely Carlyss Peer took it waaaaay in the other direction. From her first appearance on the stage, it was obvious the she, and we the audience, were in for trouble. The difference was that she thought her Rita Hanson was spot on, so it was just the audience that was in for in for a beating. She dimpled and gushed her way through every scene in a way that made my face hurt and my brain wished for a tranquiliser dart, but I couldn’t decide if it was for me or her. (Her, obviousiy.) Her performance detracted from a virtually flawless preview. Yes, it was that spectacular and it was still in the “previews.”
So, here’s my advice: get your tickets now. NOW. When it opens in March/April it is going to be too late. Tooooo laaaate… (say that in a spooky voice) You know I’m right and not just because I always am, but for thoroughly reasoned out reasons.
Everyone wants what they can’t have. Tourists are trampling each other to get tickets to the incredible musical “Hamilton,” not because of its eleven Tony awards, its breakthrough introduction of hip hop to Broadway musicals, its activist creator, or the emotional speech Brandon Victor Dixon deliver to Mike Pence after a performance. Actually, it would be amazing if any of them could recognise that name. Put on the spot, ticket seekers might be able to tell you that “Hamilton” is about either: 1) a president, 2) guys in old-timey clothes, 3) a dude on money or maybe stamps, d) dead guys, right? What they could tell you is that tickets are impossible to get and everyone will think they are cool if they see it.
But something is coming. Everyone knows the story. Everyone can agree that the love the movie, so why not go see the musical? C’mon! Let’s give it a chance. We know we’re probably going to like it better. I’ll bet we can get tickets. I don’t know if I would take that bet.