Monday, March 27, 2017

Groundhog Day

We took in the new musical Groundhog Day which is now in previews at the August Wilson Theater, New York, and slated to open April 17. One unusual aspect of its progress thus far is that the show opened last summer in London to generally good notices and audiences, and happened to be reviewed by the chief N.Y. Times theater critic because he was in London to review theater pieces there during the usually slow summer opening schedule in New York.

His review was positive, which leads one to wonder how that might affect a review in his paper when this production opens. Anyway, I thought it was a pretty good show. Andy Karl, who played what might be called the Bill Murray part in London--the character's name is Phil Connors--played it in New York. He is superb. He's good at acting, dancing, singing, and moving quickly around the set.

The show's first act was so good that I asked at its end what they would do for the second, never mind an encore. The movie's theme had a lot of charm, much of which is captured here, so that the show stands on its own. It relies on some of the devices in the film, but has plenty of its own original themes.

The sets and costumes are clever and the supporting cast works hard in terms of moving, dancing, and singing. Memorable tunes--about as many as in most shows these days, so not many. But the music was pleasant. The movie did have a good idea running through it, namely that the lead character has to repeat the same day over and over until it breaks through his hard exterior that his life will be incomplete unless he starts to think about how he affects others.

This theme is of course shielded by a veneer of comedy and music, but it is there as it was in the movie all the same. I was expecting some disappointment because Bill Murray is such a fascinating performer in his ability to give complexity and depth to his characters. But the composer, lyricist, book author, and Andy Karl worked well together to provide an equally good performance. Now, given that they didn't use a lot of what the movie had as its equivalent of a second act, I hope they figure out how to make that act stronger by the time opening night rolls around.

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