Last night I attended the 3rd preview (But 2nd full performance after Thursday technical difficulties). I’ve been looking forward to this one for a few weeks after winning the Broadwaybox Lottery and having 2 free tickets (I tend to find that if I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for the ticket, I enjoy the show much more). After Thursday’s performance ended up getting cancelled mid-show (See what I had to say about that here), I jumped on the tickets the second we were emailed with the info to purchase the new ones. I was very fortunate and ended up in Row B of the Orchestra.
The show begins with the TVs on the stage showing outtakes for Phil Conner’s weather show– an opening number that is about 8 minutes long and starts to drag, but right when it starts to drag, an alarm clock goes off, and Andy Karl comes up from under his blanket bitter about the fact that he is stuck in Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day yet again.
The first act is full of fun and joy. Just like the classic Bill Murray movie, after a long day of frustration in a small town that he hates, Phil becomes stranded with his producer and cameraman due to a blizzard. After heading back to bed, he wakes up to find that it is Groundhog Day again. After a few days of confusion, he realizes while sitting in a bar getting drunk with 2 local drunks that with each day repeating itself, there are no rules. This leads to a beautifully funny song with them all getting into a truck, and going on a drunk driving rampage through town. The way they did this scene started with a frame of a pickup truck and the use of the turntable as they sang their song, but escalated into poles with houses and cars on them to simulate them driving between the houses as cop cars started chasing them.
Their use of the set during the show was brilliant. It wasn’t just pretty to look at–they used every single piece of it at some point. Through the first act, this kind of fun continues until he finally gets bored living in the same day over and over. The first act ends with him finally going crazy and throwing his alarm clock.
As the second act opens, there is a beautiful song sung by the minor character Nancy that is a very pretty ballad, though I feel a bit out of place. Following this scene, there is a gorgeously staged song that everyday he tries a different way of killing himself hoping to not wake up in his bed again the next day. Throughout this song they use illusions for the bed to be on stage the whole time, and right after he kills himself, he throws the blanket off and continues the song because he is reappearing in the bed.
After about 30 minutes of the second act, the show starts to drag on. While the first act was very funny, the second act starts to become depressing and sad with very little humor. It isn’t until the last 10 minutes that it starts to flow again. The show ran about 2 hours and 40 minutes last night. It is still in previews working out the kinks. I can only hope they find a way to make it a little shorter. I think the best way to fix act two, would be to bring the two guys from the bar back for one more number. They had the audience in the palm of their hands laughing until they coughed.
While the second act had their problems, I was very pleased with what I saw. Andy Karl has now broken into having a large chance at winning the Tony Award even with Dear Evan Hansen in the running. In a breakthrough performance, Barrett Doss is nailing her role and carrying her own next to Andy Karl, which I would say is a very tough thing to do because Andy Karl has become one of the strongest performers on Broadway. If they both don’t end up at least getting nominated for a Tony I’ll be surprised. If I could have my own “Groundhog day” and have to repeat one event over and over, I wouldn’t be opposed to having to watch these 2 incredible performers over and over again.
While it has a few problems, I expect that from a preview. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone that has loved the movie in the past. I don’t think you’ll regret it. If you’re bringing young kids to see a show, this is not for you. It gets raunchy from time to time; there's no onstage nudity but there is implied sexual activities and inappropriate language.
When people say that contemporary theatre is amazing, I tend to disagree with them. I don’t think you can beat many of the classics especially when you are just adapting a movie for the stage. But if more contemporary shows were like Groundhog Day, I might have a completely different opinion.
A college student at SUNY Purchase, I see many shows on Broadway annually and love theatre.