Remember 1993’s hilarious and thought-provoking “Groundhog Day”? Well I sure as heckfire do. Hold onto your weatherman’s whistle, because it’s morphed into a toe-tapping musical! Adapted by the film’s original writer Danny Rubin (with a hidden gem of a backstory in the program), and infused with Tim Minchin’s signature music, this stage version had me tapping my foot and rethinking my own Groundhog Day existence.
Set in the charmingly quirky Punxatawney, Pennsylvania, we follow Phil Connors, a cynical weatherman trapped in an infuriating time loop, reliving the same February 2nd over and over again. The show instantly throws you into the small-town vibe, with a friendly cast and clever props recreating Phil’s B&B, Gobbler’s Knob, and that iconic diner.
This adaptation delves deeper into some of the characters. Fan favorite Ned Ryerson gets a tragic backstory that tugs at the heartstrings, while Nancy Taylor sheds her “casual fling” title with a powerful Act II song that reveals hidden layers.
Don’t expect catchy, poppy tunes like Matilda’s bangers. This show is for grown-ups, and the music reflects that, with a sophisticated edge (after all, doesn’t every song contain the Fibonacci sequence somehow?). My musical highlights included “Stuck,” where Phil desperately seeks help from various healers, the Act I closer “One Day” which captures the crushing reality of his situation, and the finale’s “Philanthropy,” complete with a tap-dancing, drum-playing groundhog (it’s as awesome as it sounds).
Andy Karl, seasoned in the role of Phil Connors, nails it. Having played him on Broadway and in London, he knows every nuance, yet infuses it with the depth of a character experiencing all 12 stages of grief on repeat. Elise McCann shines as the hopeful Rita, Phil’s producer and love interest, her songs showcasing the vulnerability a non-time-looped person needs.
The talented ensemble brings Punxatawney to life. Ralph and Gus (Connor Sweeney and Jacob Steen) are hilarious barflies, Kaya Byrne adds depth to Larry the cameraman, and Afua Adjei (a standout in OCPAC’s Heathers) makes the transition to a big time show without missing a beat, playing Debbie, she gets her own moment to shine.
is the stagecraft. Act I throws a curveball when, amidst Phil’s bar banter with Ralph and Gus, the bar morphs into a car, and we’re treated to a hilarious high-speed chase with the police (staged brilliantly, I might add). Then, during Phil’s darkest moment in Act II, the repetition of his day becomes a haunting visual poem. One moment he’s lifeless on stage, the next he’s sitting up in bed – how did they do that? Pure theatrical magic!
So, woodchuck-chuckers, this show is a limited-time Melbourne wonder. Grab your weatherman gear and experience Groundhog Day like never before. Just remember, “life doesn’t suck as much as you think it does!”
Photos from the groundhogdayau Instagram account