Groundhog Day review at August Wilson Theatre, New York – ‘hilarious and bracing’
In a crowded New York season for new musicals – there are 12 titles new to Broadway – Groundhog Day is one of two to have originated in London, along with the soon to open Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Could it win a Tony to join its Olivier awards?
I hope so, though the show could prove a little too dark and edgy for some. This is, after all, a musical in which even a man’s serial attempts to commit suicide are thwarted, albeit hilariously. Popular psychology always urges us to live in the moment; but what, this show asks, what would happen if we found ourselves trapped in one, replaying the same day over and over again?
Frankly, if that moment included seeing this particular show again and again, I would be a happy man. Tim Minchin’s musical is as hilarious as it is bracing.
Matthew Warchus’ production has only grown in vividness and confidence since its premiere at the Old Vic last summer – though it has not always run smoothly with a number of technical problems and star Andy Karl suffering a leg injury mid-performance three nights before the opening. Even if he is visibly a little hobbled, his performance is one of comic bravado and stunning vocals.
He is the sole holdover from the Old Vic cast, and has been joined by the appealing Barrett Doss as his producer, and Rebecca Faulkenberry as a local woman to whom he is attracted. They are both given haunting solos that they lend poignant range to.
There have also been minor tweaks to sharpen up the narrative, but the show is essentially the same one that opened at the Old Vic. Warchus and his expert collaborators have brought a finely-tuned balance of Broadway-scale polish and an English-infused ironic pathos to the show that makes its constant repetitions worth revisiting.