Against all odds, a crackerjack creative team led by director Matthew Warchus and composer and lyricist Tim Minchin have transformed Groundhog Day, the much-adored 1990 Bill Murray film, into a dynamic Broadway musical. The cast recently stopped by the Billboard office to perform a wide selection of songs from the show.
Andy Karl leads the group as Phil Connors, the callow weatherman immortalized by Murray who travels to Punxatawney, Pennsylvania, for Groundhog Day and finds himself doomed to live the same day over and over again. He’s joined by Barrett Doss, who plays Rita Hanson, Phil’s colleague and (at-first-reluctant) love interest for the first number, “If I Had My Time Again,” which the two sing together after Phil reveals to Rita “what’s been happening to him over the past many, many, many days,” Doss says. “In an effort to comfort Phil and work through what she might do if she were in his position, we sing this song.”
Two of the play’s other lead characters, Ned Ryerson and Nancy, get the spotlight in the show’s second act. Rebecca Faulkenberry sings “Playing Nancy,” the second-act opener, which frames her character — “who up until this point we’ve perhaps judged and seen as the girl who likes to wear leather and fur and is the collateral of Phil Connors’ one-night stand” — as someone worth a bit more attention. John Saunders, who plays “the overly happy, overly excited insurance salesman” Ryerson, sings “Night Will Come,” a haunting solo he performs in the show as Phil tries to save the old man Jenson from dying over and over again.
In one of the show’s more humorous numbers, Karl is joined by Josh Lamon, Sean Montgomery, Rheume Crenshaw, Gerard Canonico, Joseph Medeiros and Tari Kelly for “Stuck,” in which an assortment of questionably-qualified health professionals offer their services to a frustrated Phil. And Karl and Doss close out the performance with the duet “Seeing You,” the last song in the show, “when Phil comes full circle and he realizes he needs to see the world through others’ eyes, and subtract from himself,” Karl says. “It’s the one moment he sees Rita for the first time, and she’s actually fallen in love with him — which he finds very curious because he’s been chasing her day after day to no avail.”
Groundhog Day is nominated for seven Tony awards — including Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Karl, Best Original Score for Minchin, and Best Direction of a Musical for Warchus, and Best Book of a Musical for original Groundhog Day screenwriter Danny Rubin — and is playing now at the August Wilson Theatre.