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Fantastic “Groundhog Day the Musical” (Review) April 1, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
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Seen at a preview, Groundhog Day is off and running and it is fantastic. It has already been honed in its rave-worthy West End run, so this is a pretty simple transfer from London – though there is nothing simple about this show.

A big kudos goes to star Andy Karl, who is going to give Ben Platt a run for his money at Tony time. The non-stop energy of this remarkable actor (Rocky, Drood, Legally Blonde) is on full display for the show’s 2:40 run time – and it is nowhere on display better than the frenetic Act two number “Hope” which combines remarkable staging, stagecraft, and illusions as he appears in bed over and over seemingly having disappeared at other places on the stage — a superstar turn and it is not to be missed for this role in which weatherman Phil Connors is forced to live and relive the same day continuously.

But then there is the excellent ensemble cast, led by (potential) love interest Rita (Barrett Doss) and an entire city populated with perky, peppy Punxsutawney residents that hit their marks time and again and again and again in an ever-swirling design of rubiks-cube like set pieces that assemble over and over and over in different configurations in different places.

The remarkable stagecraft is created by set designer Rob Howell and it can’t be separated from Matthew Warchus’s controlled and finely honed direction, and Peter Darling’s great choreography. Lighting design by Hugh Vanstone is exceptional. Your eye goes exactly where director Warchus wants it to go – and that is no understatement nor an easy job when at times the characters find themselves on tilt-a-whirls and parties, and parades, and celebrations. BRAVO.

Tim Minchin’s music is far better here than it was in Matilda. He has created a score that is at once repetitive and rift-filled as required by the show’s repeating motif, but also melodic and soaring when need be. Andy Karl gets a lot of rock tunes that lift his voice out and up and into the Pennsylvania snowscape. Barrett Doss gets the ballads. And the ensemble gets everything else (including a lovely song about being stuck in routines and expectations even if you are not stuck in time, “Playing Nancy” by the striking Rebecca Faulkenberry.)

In a season of Broadway hits and misses, Groundhog Day the Musical is one of the shining stars. Don’t miss it.

Very Highest Recommendation. Now playing at the August Wilson Theatre, New York.

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