Groundhog Day: The Musical
Monday, Jun 12, 2017
Let's get all the obvious jokes out of the way first. It's not just one song over and over. It's not just Sonny and Cher's "I Got You, Babe" on repeat. It's the original Broadway cast recording of Groundhog Day: The Musical, and I love it. Most people probably know the premise of Groundhog Day from the film upon which the musical is based--Phil the arrogant weatherman is stuck in Punxsutawney, PA, covering the festivities of Groundhog Day again and again. As with any musical, the songs don't just tell the story, they let us know what the characters are thinking and feeling at any given time. The songs and lyrics clue us into Phil's thoughts and mental state as he realizes he's trapped in a repeating loop of the same day and consults "experts" to help solve his dilemma ("Stuck"), the nihilism that results when he realizes there are essentially no consequences to his actions ("Nobody Cares"), his total despair as he attempts repeatedly to kill himself ("Hope"), and his hedonistic and grandiose delusions as he explores the implications of being able to do and know, seemingly, everything ("Everything about You" and "If I Had my Time Again"). Finally Phil shows some growth when he realizes that he doesn't know as much as he thinks ("Seeing You").
Although I love the album in its entirety, two standouts for me are "Stuck" and "Nobody Cares." Both songs are upbeat, fast-paced, and packed with jokes tucked in amongst the clever lyrics. In "Stuck," Phil consults a variety of experts--from alternative healers, naturopaths, scientologists, and bovine psychiatric pharmacologists--to try to discover a way out of his dilemma. Anyone who is familiar with composer and lyricist Tim Minchin's work as a comedian will find this to be the most Minchin-y of all the songs, as it pokes fun at the kinds of hucksters who don't have answers but pretend to anyway: "I don’t have a frickin' clue what I’m doing / Though there are things that we just don’t know / It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give giving an answer a go / You just have to open your Mind / That’ll be 500 bucks."
"Nobody Cares" is funny in a different way. Once Phil realizes he really is trapped in the day and no one is going to be able to help him, he falls in with a couple of self-destructive perpetual barflies. Although Phil and the two men are are superficially in very different places, the lyrics reveal their fundamental similarities. They all live the same day over and over, albeit in different ways and for different reasons, and feel like nothing they do has any real consequences. "Nobody cares what I do / Nobody cares if I’m alive / Utterly uninfluential / No regrets and no potential / Every turn inconsequential."
Another thing I like about the musical in contrast to the film is that some of the minor characters are given additional depth. Phil's producer and eventual love interest Rita's hopes and dreams are spelled out in "One Day," so that she's more than just a prize for Phil to be given once he shapes up his act. Promiscuous Nancy explains that she's more than just a pretty face in "Playing Nancy." And annoying insurance salesman Ned has one of the most profound and haunting songs in the show, "Night Will Come," which sheds some light on his seemingly single-minded dedication to the cause of selling life insurance.
Although I'm more a fan of musicals than of the film Groundhog Day, I think aficionados of either will enjoy this cast recording.