Groundhog Day: The Musical Is the Most Fun You’ll Have on Broadway, and Its Fans Are Here to Prove It
The show is closing much too soon.
Groundhog Day: The Musical is a rare anomaly on Broadway: brilliant, energizing, totally hilarious, unexpectedly deep and sometimes tragic—and you can still score tickets without having to sell a kidney. The show is so good that an outpouring of community involvement has followed since its debut, and I asked its fans to share what makes the production special. Journey with us to Punxsutawney, PA, the little town with a heart as big as any town.
Picture my delight when I was taken to Groundhog Day: The Musical somewhat begrudgingly—my only intention was to turn my brain off of Donald Trump for a night—only to emerge thrilled, uplifted, and on a mission of spreading the word of Groundhog Day with evangelical zeal. What I had imagined might be a forgettable movie-to-stage adaptation turned out to be my favorite cultural experience of the year. The show closes September 17th and if you don’t see it, you will live in a world of eternal regret that will repeat day after day after day.
Inspired—but also deviating—from the 1990’s classic film starring Bill Murray, Groundhog Day: The Musical is the brainchild of Australian comedian and lyricist Tim Minchin (who also gifted us with the staged Matilda), with a book by Danny Rubin. The show won Britain’s equivalent of the Tonys, scoring the Best New Musical Olivier award, as well as Best Actor in a Musical for Andy Karl.
Imitable leading man Karl stars as grumpy weatherman Phil Connors, who finds himself “unstuck in time,” doomed to repeat the same day while trapped in his own version of hell, small town U.S.A. As he tries to win over his producer, Rita (played by the winning Barrett Doss), Phil grows as a person, with help from the cheerfully hard-working and fantastic supporting ensemble, who can do everything from practicing reiki to conducting on-stage car chases to tap dancing with alacrity. Bill Murray himself saw the musical twice and was seen to “visibly sob” in the audience.
After I fell in love with Groundhog Day, I started to investigate the online community of fans that grew and thrived around the show. Their delightful fanart and joy in Groundhog Day and its cast prompted me to feature the creativity that the musical inspired, and to seek testimonials from its devotees.
Watching Groundhog Day, my favorite song was the astonishing show-stopping ballad “Night Will Come,” sung by John Sanders as the hapless insurance salesman Ned Ryerson. Tumblr user littlelifeluggale drew this lovely Ned. Start listening to “Night Will Come” if you want to understand how a comedic musical about a shallow man trapped in a place that worships mystical whistle pigs can also be wonderfully wrenching.
Artist sarah-becks-gay-uncle has done a number of pieces featuring the musical’s incredible supporting cast of characters. I’ve never witnessed such a strong ensemble on stage, and the colorful lot remains as unforgettable as the main players.
“The only thing I can really say about it is that I love Groundhog Day with my whole heart, as it means a lot to me as a special interest and as an inspirational piece of media,” they told me.
Protagonist Phil Connors’ appearance in boxers and fur coat after he realizes that he’s stuck in a time loop that enables him to “do whatever he wants to” without consequence also prompted some of my favorite posts.
sajouuuu has done some lovely artwork, especially focused on the adorable supporting characters Freddie and Debbie.
“I love Groundhog Day and I believe it doesn’t get as much recognition; though the only way for that to happen is through fanart, fanfictions or basically just recommending it to another Broadway fan,” sajouuuu told me. “I’m glad to be apart of the community. The cast, the music, the show is outstanding! And for sure it’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Tumblr user bi-hansen has united Phil Connors with his dark double, Punxsutawney Phil:
“It’s got its charm and a lot of humor and I love it for that,” bi-hansen said of the show. “It’s nice to take a break from really sad musicals to listen to something more upbeat even though it itself has some sad points in it.”
princesock started listening to Groundhog Day at the prompting of their friend richardgoranski, who other users also cited as their entry into the show (friends don’t let friends miss Groundhog Day). Here they depict the character of Nancy:
Nancy might be the show’s most subversive and surprisingly feminist achievement. The typical bubbly, buxom, beautiful and blonde temporary love interest we often see distracting our hero before true love arrives, Nancy upends the whole trope with a meta-song all her own, “Playing Nancy.”
“Is it my destiny to be / A brief diversion / Just a detour on the journey of some man?” Nancy (Rebecca Faulkenberry) sings. “I learned back in my teens / There’s no point in protestin’ / If you look good in tight jeans / That’s what they’ll want you dressed in / Once you’re known for low-cut tops / It’s pretty hard to stop.” In protesting typecasting and the “Nancy type” while typecast herself, Nancy fulfills what her song asks for, the chance to be “something more than Nancy.”
spiteful-in-a-million-ways was also compelled to draw Nancy’s internal conflict:
“After I watched it, I was obsessed,” they said, which is par for the Groundhog Day course.
richardgoranski is one of the show’s most enthusiastic fans and their love for the show shines through many works of art and active recruitment of friends to answer the Groundhog Day call.
jupiterscent shows Phil Connors caught in his time loop, radiating exhaustion. They first saw the show because of a certain actor. “Honestly I became a fan because one of my biggest idols (Gerard Canonico [Fred]) played a character in it so my parents brought me to New York to see it and we ended up meeting him!!!!!” Stories about the kindness of the cast abound among Groundhog Day’s adherents.
llewhn drew one of the funniest lyrics from the show, when Phil is attempting to understand what’s happening to him—why the days keep repeating. Before he accepts that he’s stuck in time, Phil tries to reason through the situation: “One I’m still sleeping and this I’m just dreaming it, two it’s a prank / and everyone’s in on it, three it’s a flashback from when I was twenty / and ate magic mushrooms and thought I was Aquaman.”
“I became a fan of the show because of how wonderful it really is. I feel like it just has this feeling of being home,” was llewhn’s warm appraisal of Groundhog Day. “It conveys tone so well and the cast is amazing. I believe strongly that it is something really special, and that a lot of people can enjoy. More people should listen to it in my opinion.”
anentirerice‘s art showcases the romance of the show—Freddie and Debbie, and main couple Phil and Rita, whose slow-burn evolution is the heart of Groundhog Day.
“I got familiarized with it when I heard it was up for a Tony right around when it was starting to become popular, and I was just super drawn in by all the characters,” an entirerice said, echoing the widespread affection for the show’s relatable stable of townspeople and visitors to Punxsutawney. “They all seemed real and interesting and it draws upon the original Groundhog Day characterization super well, which isn’t the sort of feeling you’d normally draw from an adaptation musical. The orchestration and usage of swings was especially crazy good (as Tim Minchin’s work usually is), and I absolutely loved it!! I really adore the cast and community. It’s such a heartfelt show!”
Animation student tasha-draws‘ evocative style brings us straight into the heart of Punxsutawney and its denizens.
Natasha imparted her path to Groundhog Day : “Before I watched the show in June, I didn’t have high expectations for it. I haven’t seen the movie at that point but I was still a bit excited to watch it because of Andy Karl, whom I first saw on Rocky back in 2014. After the show finished, I really liked it: the songs were wonderful to listen to, the direction is fantastic and the performances were a treat especially from the main man Andy. A few weeks later, I began thinking about the show and started to look up interviews and other people’s opinions through Tumblr. At that point, I decided to listen to the full soundtrack again.” This way, I have found, lies obsession.
“This time, I got more connected to the themes and the characters’ dilemmas throughout the story. I fell more in love with the small community of diverse characters who are packed with heart and I got emotionally attached to Phil Connors’s character arc to the point that I relate to him. I got more passionate talking about it compared to the other shows that I saw this year which includes The Great Comet, an all-time favorite of mine, and I soon found myself in a small community of unique and fantastic people.”
“It’s rare for me to continuously fall in love with a show like this, a stage adaptation of a classic movie which was proven to be hard to adapt. But the combination of wonderful songs, a diverse cast of likable characters, a believable and emotional character arc for Phil Connors and the exploration of different messages including self-reflection, community and the methods of how we spend our lives, Groundhog Day has earned a special place in my heart.”
I’m getting a little teary-eyed now and I have the show’s remarkable closing number “Seeing You” on repeat, so we’ll also close here on that note. frillyscribbles has drawn Phil and Rita finally seeing the sun that Groundhog Day fans know is the show’s enduring promise.
A representative from Groundhog Day told me that the cast so adores the art created and gifted by its community that it has a prominent place in the theater, which is wonderful to hear: “There is a wall backstage at the theater that is covered in fan art; because there is so much of it, the stage managers and cast decided to create a collage/tribute.”
I hope we’ve managed to persuade you that Groundhog Day: The Musical is a truly unique experience that means a lot to many of us, and it’s more than worth your time—you may, in fact, find yourself stuck with us in an infinite loop of love, donuts, tilt-a-whirls, thrown alarm clocks, and prognosticating marmots. See you in Punxsutawney.
Groundhog Day is playing in New York City through September 17th. Grab a ticket if you can and thank me later. And if you can’t make it, the cast album is available on Spotify and will ruin your life in the best of ways.
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