In an ocean full of musical adaptations, it may seem hard to find one worthy of being your lifeboat. Lucky for me, I found that one last year. Picture this: it’s September 2017, Hamilton is still at its peak, Dear Evan Hansen is racking up accolade after accolade, yet my friends and I were treating the August Wilson theater like it had revolving doors. That is because Groundhog Day the musical was playing eight shows a week back then. The show, based on the 1993 film of the same name, opened in April and closed just 6 months after. I’m writing about it today for a few reasons:
It’s been one year since the show’s (untimely, if you ask me) demise.
I’ve been reflecting a lot about where I was the week of Groundhog Day’s closing and where I am now, and holy crap, can things change in just a mere 365 day span.
I know there are theatre fans feeling down right now because of this year’s September casualties, and I wanted to let them know that they are not alone.
Groundhog Day, true to its film predecessor, tells the story of jilted weatherman Phil Connors as he is dragged on an assignment to Punxsutawney, PA the town most famous for- you guessed it- Groundhog Day. We’re not sure how exactly, but we witness Phil’s disdain for the holiday over and over again as he is stuck living in a never-ending loop of February 2nds. I know, I know. That doesn’t exactly scream “HEY TURN ME INTO A MUSICAL!” but trust me, it worked wonders.
Andy Karl led a badass cast of actors. Barrett Does was brilliant in her portrayal of Rita as she gave Karl a run for every single penny he had. And that ensemble?! Every single one of them was not only ridiculously talented, but important to the story. I couldn’t imagine this show any differently.
If there was any composer on the planet who could take Groundhog Day and turn it into the quirky, loveable musical romp it became, it’s Matilda-scribe Tim Minchin. His clever lyrical prowess rivals the sharp tongues of the characters he’s written for. Songs “Day One”, “Day Two”, and “Day Three” perfectly capture the tone of the show as well as give the audience a look at how quickly things start to unravel for our protagonist. There are so many great songs in Groundhog Day but the best song bar none is “Hope,” a bone-chilling look at what happens when Connors finally reaches his breaking point. That song is one of Minchin’s best.
Groundhog Day is a musical that didn’t get the praise it deserved but it did get an abundance of love from the people who loved it. The week the show closed, I was unexpectedly injured. I probably shouldn’t have gone to closing night as I was very much not healed by that time. However, that show had meant so much to me, and so much to people I loved, that I couldn’t miss it. So I showed up and I saw the show for the last time. And I soaked up every minute. At that point in my life seeing Phil Connors embrace his tomorrow in that final scene (20-year spoiler alert: he gets out of the Feb. 2 time loop), was so vastly important for me to witness. It gave me a new appreciation for waking up to a new day. I can never thank the cast and crew of that show enough for that. A year later, looking back at that day, that week really, I get overly emotional because I was in a such a bad place mentally and physically, and now...I’m finally figuring things out. And I’d like to think that final Groundhog Day performance played some kind of role in that.
I’ve seen a lot of reminiscing being done on the internet about this show. I’ve also seen an outpouring of love and support for the recently closed Carousel, Gettin’ The Band Back Together, and Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical. I know it sucks when shows close, even more so when they’ve had a significant impact on our lives. But they stay in our hearts even after the final curtain. Even after the marquee lights go out. Even when a new show takes over the theater. And even when that new show becomes your new favorite. Shows close and yes, that may make you sad. But you’ll get through it. If not tomorrow, perhaps the day after.