If the Tony Awards had a category for “Best Stage Magical,” it would go to “Groundhog Day.” They will have to settle for “Best Scenic Design in a Musical,” which is accurate, but not sufficiently poetic. In other words, the staging is absolutely fabulous.
The rest of the evening is fun as well, bringing the 1993 Harold Ramis fantasy romcom to the Broadway stage. Twice Tony-nominated, Andy Karl takes the Bill Murray role as snarky weatherman Phil Collins, who is fated to re-live February 2 over and over again until he gets it right — and gets the girl. Relative newcomer Barrett Doss plays the Andie MacDowell role of assistant producer Rita Hanson. No ringlet-haired Southern belle, Doss makes her character an existential angst-ridden daughter of the Midwest, still looking for Mr. Right despite all the evidence.
Odd that the leading man has two first names and the leading lady two last names, but that’s contemporary theater. So is the language, which turns a PG film into an R musical.
Good songs capture the evolution of Phil Collins as each re-living of Groundhog Day makes his initially supercilious character manic, then depressive and finally noble. The voices are all crystal clear, the choreography on-point and did we mention the staging? There is a car chase scene that brought down the house.
The first night of previews famously had a technical glitch fifteen minutes in when the turntable, central to many of the effects, groundhogged to a halt. The company finished that show concert-style. We saw it the next night, and it was flawless.
In previews at the August Wilson Theatre, opens April 17.