June 14th, 2017

Groundhog Day: the musical

Until a reader alerted me, I hadn’t realized that one of my favorite movies of all time—one I’ve written quite a few posts about—had been turned into a musical.

My gut reaction was that it must be a bad idea. Deja vu all over again—although that would be apropos, of course, for Groundhog Day. But the reader wrote:

I can’t recommend it enough…How deep Phil’s journey was portrayed and just what a joy the whole thing was. The longer runtime gives them a chance to flesh out more of the characters. We get to see what a non-vapid female lead can do to the story…It is a truly great production, the music, the sets, the humor and the imagination that went into it all.

Now, that sounds like something worth seeing—although at Broadway’s prices, I won’t be expecting to go again and again and again.

It turns out that the book for the musical was written by the same man who wrote the original script for the movie, Danny Rubin. That’s certainly a good sign. Here Rubin describes how the movie and the musical came to be:

Over those 20-plus years I’ve received sacks of mail from all over the globe – letters and articles and sermons and dissertations – from psychologists who prescribe the film to their patients, from philosophers and religious leaders, as well as friends and fans of all stripes.

The movie was never intended, by me or by Harold, to be anything more than a good, heartfelt, entertaining story. He and I had terrific conversations about Buddhism and reincarnation, about Superman and the ethics of not saving everybody constantly, and other philosophical ideas stimulated by the story. Still, we never anticipated the impact the film would have. I did, however, feel from the very beginning that I’d stumbled upon a story with all the makings of a classic, so simple and true that it could be retold many different ways by many different storytellers.

When the British theatre director Matthew Warchus called one day about four years ago to ask whether I’d ever considered Groundhog Day as a musical I had to smile. By that point I already had an outline, a rough draft of the book, about 30 song ideas I had winnowed down to 12, and a ream of scenes, themes, bits, gags, progressions, dialogue snippets and even some melodies. Yes, I had considered Groundhog Day as a musical…

This is one I’d like to see.

7 Responses to “Groundhog Day: the musical”

  1. Frog Says:

    I bet Rubin is smiling from the revenues, and Broadway esteem, to be garnered.

    I have no interest in seeing a stage production which is necessarily going to omit many scenes in the movie, and replace them with what? With what kind of statements to convey the weatherman’s redundant, ineffective desperation to break the inexplicable cycle, and his miraculous remaking into a decent person?

    I think the (inadvertent, since Rubin admits it is only an entertainment) function of the movie’s morning alarm repetition is to lead us to think, and I suspect the stage production will tell us WHAT to think, like the Shakespeare play currently running that features the decapitation of a man resembling Trump.
    There is no right-handed individual on Broadway. They are all Leftists.

  2. Dirtyjobsguy Says:

    We saw it in previews and it was throughly fun. The cast and set are great and work well together. Since the show started in London I guess the brits must like the movie as well as they like Star Trek

  3. Simon Says:

    Frog, I believe if you went to see to see it you’d be beyond pleasantly surprised. From the quote above:

    “I did, however, feel from the very beginning that I’d stumbled upon a story with all the makings of a classic, so simple and true that it could be retold many different ways by many different storytellers.”

    Danny Rubin himself found many different and wonderful ways of expounding on the theme. No leftist nonsense necessary.

  4. TommyJay Says:

    My wife & I were in NYC a couple months ago and saw about $2K worth of plays at 50% off. It was a rare trip for us, so why not splurge? GHD was one of our top two favorites, the other being “The Glass Menagerie.” Both are fantastic. “Little Foxes” was good too.

    If you are worried that a great deal of the movie is left out, don’t. The play runs a bit long and moves at a furious pace and does not leave much out. I will say that the Andie McDowell replacement isn’t quite up to Andie’s standard, but the Phil (Bill Murray replacement) actor is excellent.

    The secret to the production is its amazing stage craft. Our NYC host, who is a theater critic, said that in a preview or open dress rehearsal one of the very complex stagings fell apart and they had to restart the segment. It was flawless in our viewing. Highly recommended.

  5. Frog Says:

    Simon, I did not say the play was necessarily leftist. I said there are only leftists on Broadway, NYC. What are the political views of your theater critic host, Tommy Jay?

  6. groundhog Says:

    How could it not be fantastic?!

    Now squirrel day, that might be questionable.

  7. T Says:

    “I bet Rubin is smiling from the revenues, and Broadway esteem, to be garnered.” [Frog @ 4:23]

    But nobody beats Mel Brooks. Write the producers in the late 1960s. Let it lie dormant except for rare reruns for 40 years. Resurrect it as a hit musical. Then do a movie of the musical. (As Brooks said in Spaceballs “We’ll all meet again in Spaceballs II: The the search for more money.”)

    Although I haven’t seen the last iteration of The Producers, I’ve always thought that the original was one fo the funniest films ever made and that the musical was more than able to stand on it’s own.

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