Fans of the film “Groundhog Day” may want to see how the musical version has turned out, but anyone interested in a good musical theater performance may want to see Andy Karl in the role of broadcast weatherman Phil Connors. Karl gives a magnetic, highly entertaining account of himself in the show, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, a book by Danny Rubin and assorted contributions by those who add color and life to the elaborate staging.
As happens with most musicals two and a half hours long, the second act seems stretched and one feels the need for shortening. But the show keeps being driven by Karl’s amusing, hyper performance as a man who continues to live the same day over and over again to the point of his boredom, and sometimes ours, and eventually finds a way to take advantage of his plight.
There is a lot of fun in watching how fast-talking Phil bears up under the monotony of having to face the same rituals and celebrations of Groundhog Day, when the town he can’t stand focuses on when the celebrated groundhog emerges from the winter and whether or not it sees its shadow determining what the weather will be like. Humor is extracted from the repetitiveness of Phil’s life and what he learns about everyone’s behavior that he repeatedly encounters.
A big help to the show is Barrett Doss as broadcast producer Rita Hanson, who, after some insulting face-offs with Phil, falls for him, as he does for her. She and Phil do some nifty singing.
Much has been written about Karl’s accident in the show and his need to miss performances (my original one to see the show was cancelled) before being able to return with a leg brace. The result has been smartly co-opted, with Karl flashing the comically looking brace as part of his costume. By now the injury doesn’t seem to impair his agility, rapid movements or magnetic stage presence.
“Groundhog Day” is an extremely busy show, with frequently moving scenic backgrounds of miniature houses and other gimmicks in the scenic design by Rob Howell, lighting design by Hugh Vanstone, video design by Andrzej Goulding, and assorted other technical contributors. Director Matthew Warchus mostly keeps up a fast pace. Thus this is a colorfully staged, acted and sung musical, with a large, good supporting cast. Explaining how all works out, as well as the original premise, engenders some head-scratching. But don’t ask, just enjoy. At the August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street. Phone: 877-250-2929. Reviewed May 6, 2017.