BWW CD Review: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is Charmingly Animated
A musical adaptation of 1993's Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis may not seem like the most plumb choice for Broadway. However, the show's score and lyrics by Tim Minchin (you remember him as the genius that wrote the music and lyrics for MATILDA THE MUSICAL) will make audiences reconsider any doubts they may have had. Especially, when they listen to Masterworks Broadway and Broadway Records charmingly animated Groundhog Day THE MUSICAL (Original Broadway Cast Recording).
On first listen, Minchin's melodies are captivating. They are undeniably more poppy than his dark, moody, and undulating score for MATILDA; however, it's obvious that he has written each of these compositions with the same consideration and care that he did with MATILDA. Despite the more simplistic sounding and pop aural soundscape, the melodies are intricately layered showing an artistry and skill that is not apparent in one listening. Also, they offer keenly repetitive chord progressions that lend themselves to plot of the musical.
Likewise, the lyrics on a first listen don't appear to have the same sophistication of the poetry present in MATILDA. But, once listeners really sink into what this cast sings, it becomes clear that the lyrics offer more substance and depth than audiences may think. There is a subtly to them that makes them seem almost inconsequential at first, which ensures that the comedy of the lyrics steals the spotlight (example: I wake / With a headache, / I take a piss, / I often miss, / I often git a little bit on the floor). Yet, upon further investigation a song like "Nobody Cares" (which has the lyrics previously cited) truly lends itself to the show's central theme. Gus and Ralph literally live the same day over and over as the calendar changes, while Phil is stuck in a loop of February 2. The same can be said for lyrics in other numbers that may initially appear as clumsy or not fully thought out.
Across the album, Andy Karl shines as the embittered curmudgeon Phil. As he laments how terrible the small-town nowhere aspects of Punxsutawney, PA are on "Day One," Karl makes Phil's cocky, big shot attitude readily apparent without making the character unappealing to audiences. Karl makes Phil's seemingly insurmountable anguish on "Hope" tangible, singing the dark number that accompanies multiple suicide attempts with the grit of torment and despair. His softened crooning on "Seeing You" cements his character's transformation and allows Karl to show off how beautifully delicate and unassumingly gentle his multifaceted vocal instrument can be.
Barrett Doss as Rita, the romantic interest for Karl's Phil, steals the show with her performance on the first act's finale "One Day." She performs with a hopeful tenderness, alternating between an almost angst-laden speak singing and a heartfelt belt. She opens the door for the other cast members that join her for the song's finale, but she continues to bask in the spotlight as she brings the number to a brilliant close. Her sparkling instrument on "If I Had My Time Again" leaves listeners ebullient as they listen to her brightly sing about what she would do differently if given the chance.
Other standouts on the album include Rebecca Faulkenberry singing "Playing Nancy." In performance the song, which opens the second act, seems to come from leftfield. But, Faulkenberry handles the number with such grace, heart, and aplomb that this number, which doesn't progress the plot in any way, actually works. John Sanders sings with gripping poignancy as Ned Ryerson, Phil's forgotten childhood friend, on the heartbreaking and faintly uplifting "Night Will Come." Also, Josh Lamon brings smiles to listeners' faces as Buster, a town elder, on songs like "Day One" and the hilarious Healer with a degree in alternative therapy on "Stuck."
GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL (Original Broadway Cast Recording) perfectly captures the gleefully dizzying score by Minchin. Even for people who have yet to see the show, I wager that this recording will leave visions of the complex turntables spinning in the listeners' heads as they hear this cast perform and emote with clarity and infectious joy on every track. Give this disk a spin, and spin it again, and again, and again, and again.
Masterworks Broadway and Broadway Records digitally released Groundhog Day THE MUSICAL (Original Broadway Cast Recording) on April 21, 2017. Physical copies were released on May 12, 2017. It can be purchased from Broadway Records's webstore, iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold. You can also catch the Tony nominated musical currently playing on Broadway. Visit http://www.groundhogdaymusical.com for tickets and more information.