Sunday, April 30, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Book by Danny Rubin
Directed by Matthew Warchus
August Wilson Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
If you're a fan of the movie, you'll enjoy the screen-to-stage version of the comedy Groundhog Day starring Andy Karl as a weatherman who finds himself trapped in a day that won't end.

Karl, who injured his knee just before the show's opening, valiantly continued on with a "show-must-go-on" attitude and won the hearts of the audience. Awards nominations surely will follow.

Following his acclaimed performance in the London production of the Tim Minchin/Danny Rubin musical, Karl plays Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray in the film) unenthusiastically covering the antics of Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog who once a year predicts whether there will be six more weeks of winter by whether or not he sees his shadow.  The small-town experience doesn't interest the human Phil much, until he realizes the day keeps repeating itself.

He finds himself in the same situations and the same conversations with the townsfolk and his associate producer, Rita Hanson (Barrett Doss). When he realizes he isn't dreaming, he tries to end it all to stop the futility of his existence, but finds that no matter what he does, the alarm clock wakes him at exactly the same time for the exact same day.

Phil starts to wonder whether he can use his knowledge of what is to happen to make a difference and change outcomes for some of the town's residents. When his heart changes, so does the relationship between him and Rita.

The score is pleasing and the lyrics are clever as well as humorous. Matthew Warchus (who reunites with Minchin and Rubin from Matilda) expertly directs the action on the fabulous set designed by Rob Howell. The storytelling is set to movement by Choreographer Peter Darling and Co-Choreographer Ellen Kane. In fact, everything blends together so well, a cameo appearance by Karl's knee brace even seems like it could be part of the original script.

The relationship between Phil and Rita could use some development. Rita doesn't seem to sure of herself or what she wants, but Nancy (Rebecca Faulkenberry), who is no more than window dressing to Phil and the guys of Small Town USA gets an unexpected solo about why she is the way she is and how women are taught to focus on their looks) called "Playing Nancy."

Filling out the townsfolk and various characters is a strong ensemble cast: John Sanders, Andrew Call, Raymond J. Lee, Heather Ayers, Kevin Bernard, Gerard Canonico, Rheaume Crenshaw, Michael Fatica, Katy Geraghty, Camden Gonzales, Jordan Grubb, Taylor Iman Jones, Tari Kelly, Josh Lamon, Joseph Medeiros, Sean Montgomery, William Parry, Jenna Rubaii, Vishal Vaidya, Travis Waldschmidt, and Natalie Wisdom.

Additional credits:  Christopher Nightingale (orchestrator and musical supervisor), Hugh Vanstone (lighting designer), Simon Baker (sound designer), Paul Kieve (illusions), Finn Caldwell (additional movement), Andrzej Goulding (video designer), Campbell Young Associates (hair and wig design) , David Holcenberg (music director).

Groundhog Day repeats eight times a week at the August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd St., NYC). groundhogdaymusical.com.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS
-- Suicide
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual references

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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