A Very Special Preview of Groundhog Day the Musical

Now on nightly repeat at the August Wilson Theatre

Headshot of Richard Horgan

There are some wonderful details in S.I. Rosenbaum’s New York magazine profile of Danny Rubin, the man who wrote the script for the beloved 1993 film comedy Groundhog Day. For years, each Feb. 2, a secret admirer would leave gifts on the stoop of his Santa Fe, N.M. home; and a current Rubin screenplay, The Hanging Story, is like Groundhog Day in reverse, featuring a man whose death-by-hanging is repeatedly postponed thanks largely to his storytelling skills.

The Bill Murray film has been transformed, by Rubin and collaborators, into a stage musical, performed last summer in London and currently gearing up for an April 17 Broadway opening. As Rosenbaum writes, some veritable Groundhog Day karma wrapped itself around the preview performance she attended with Rubin:

Something has happened. It’s about 15 minutes into the first preview show, and the actors have suddenly vanished from the stage. The audience murmurs. The curtain drops. Minutes go by in silence.

Finally, [director Matthew] Warchus comes out to make an announcement: Inside the stage, the complex mechanism that powers the production’s intricate onstage turntables–there are five of them, nestled within each other–has somehow broken down. It’s never happened before, and they don’t know how to fix it. The rest of the musical will be performed with the cast sitting on the stage in a row of chairs, and everyone in the audience will get tickets to a second show.

The audience is, if anything, a little bit thrilled. The usual has been disrupted. They’re witnessing a one-off, an iteration of Groundhog Day that will never happen this way again. They’re now complicit in show-business history. When the evening ends, the cast is given a standing ovation.

Fantastic. As if a new play-within-a-play was being written on the cosmic fly, with one of the best repeat-days of this run stacked up to the very forefront. Read the rest of the piece here.

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.