It’s a musical you’ll want to see more than once. Groundhog Day has come to New York’s Great White Way and if you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love it even more on Broadway. The musical comedy is written by Danny Rubin and the late Harold Ramis, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and based on the 1993 film of the same name. Three-time Tony nominee Andy Karl has the honor of playing Phil Connors, the egotistical jerk of a weatherman who covers the story of Punxsutawney Phil for the third year in a row. Clearly frustrated, he covers the event, only to wake the next day to discover it is Groundhog Day again, and again and again. As for Karl, he has always known that he wanted to call the Broadway stage his home.
“When I saw my first Broadway show in high school, I was hooked. I started singing at home and was in my high school’s chorus,” said Karl, whose mother played the organ for church. “I really liked West Side Story and Jesus Christ Superstar and when I got cast in my first show in Baltimore, I found the family of theater and became addicted to that.”
Karl moved to New York to pursue acting full-time, a feat that he thinks has been “pretty darn successful and very lucky.” Karl performs eight shows a week, which he finds easy to connect to the character, that he is literally repeating each show over and over again.
“Groundhog Day speaks right on the point to human nature. Once you see those days happening over and over again, think how you can look at it so you can stay happy and it doesn’t sound like a mundane repeat of your day,” he said. “It’s fun doing this show at this point in my life and career. I can connect to it very well on a personal level.”
Karl is no stranger to being the main lead. He headlined as Rocky Balboa in Rocky in 2014, an extremely physical role that was so character specific he had help from Sylvester Stallone himself when preparing for it.
“He [Sylvester] gave me notes and we hung out several times. He had the idea of making it into a musical,” said Karl of the actor who made famous film about the Italian brooding tank of a boxer named Rocky. “It’s interesting because Rocky was written and created by Stallone, but Bill Murray created the character in Groundhog Day and he does his own thing. He’s untouchable and I respect him and everything he’s done.”
On playing the iconic role, Karl says he was brought up on Bill Murray humor and that he has watched the film dozens of times. He also watched YouTube videos of weathermen and trained himself to multiply his frustrations and anger by making everything personal. The actor also commented on how well the film has transitioned to the theater.
“It’s its own thing on stage; it has its own world. You really don’t feel like you’re watching the movie at all,” said Karl, adding that the musical keeps the joy and surprise of what the movie has. “It’s really funny and Danny Rubin, who wrote the original screenplay for the movie, did the musical as well. Tim Minchin’s ability to do sardonic humor and self-actualization lyrics is astounding.”
Deeper, funnier and extremely creative, Karl is proud of Groundhog Day, which takes on another dimension of living each day, how you do that and what it means to you.
“Phil Connors is the worst and best person all in the same day, and this show is one of the best shows I’ve ever done,” said Karl. “It’s a heartwarming story and at the end, you walk away with everything you could possibly want in a theatre experience.”
Groundhog Day is currently playing at the August Wilson Theatre, 245 West 52nd St. For tickets and more information, visit www.groundhogdaymusical.com.