Ground Hog Day the Musical a merry-go-round of fun at SF Playhouse
Groundhog Day the Musical: Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin. Book by Danny Rubin. Directed by Susi Damilano. San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street, San Francisc, CA. 415-677-9596, or online at https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/2019-2020-season/groundhog-day.
November 20, 2019 – January 18, 2020.
Ground Hog Day the Musical a merry-go-round of fun at SF Playhouse. Rating:
Never having seen the 1993 movie on which the musical is based but being aware of the story outline, entering the San Francisco Playhouse was to be a completely new experience. The musical began life in “London’s The Old Vic in 2016, and had a Broadway run in 2017 that was nominated for 7 Tony Awards.” The musical never had a national tour and the SF Playhouse production is first to reach the hinterlands. It is a madcap riot that requires not only a talented lead actor but also non-stop staging and intricate direction. Susi Damilano’s superb direction, with the aid of a revolving stage created a riotous evening with message that is almost perfect for the holiday season.
Casting Ryan Drummond for the lead role of Phil Connors who has to relive the same day again and again before finally changing his personality was perfect casting. However Rinabeth Apostol as Rita who is the love interest fails to develop any charisma with Drummond. The ensemble cast has enough energy for two or three shows with a few standouts to be mentioned later.
Phil Connors is a Pittsburg TV weather-man who is assigned to cover February 2nd Ground Hog day celebration in the small town of Punxsutawney, PA. A blizzard moves in blocking all the roads out of town. Phil is stuck in town and through unexplained magic he wakes up each morning and it is GroundHog Day again and again and again.
Although he is trapped in a time loop the denizens of the town are completely unaware even though they repeat the same actions. When he realizes that no matter what he does the next morning will be just the same he develops hell-for-bent attitude leading to some fantastic stage vignettes with one of the best being the drunken driving episode that is brilliantly staged with model houses flying by carried by the ensemble. In all the madness his wooing of Rita is a complete bust sending him further into depression and he kidnaps the ground hog Punxsutawney Phil and drives off a cliff. He consults an assortment of hack doctors and attempts multiple form of suicide.
But alas Phil is our protagonists and must have redemption and he does. He learns to play the piano, performs good deeds and accepts small town life. He also stops his on TV camera rude shenanigans and gives a credible account of the GroundHog Day festival. At a charity bachelor auction Rita is the top bidder for Phil’s company and he builds her an ice sculpture. They end up in bed in Phil’s bread and breakfast room with an end of the continual loop suggesting living happily ever after.
Damilano uses the revolving stage to gain maximum effect moving the cyclical story along and has the benefit of fantastic sets (Edward T. Morris), spot-on costumes (Abra Berman) and great projections to spruce up the set.
For this reviewer the music/lyrics were less enthralling but fit appropriately into the plot line. A quotation from a previous reviewer seems appropriate: “Minchin’s songs breezily add to the satire on small-town life. . . . . the action, especially in the first half, is so fast and furious that the songs have little room to breathe. When things slow down, the numbers, with titles such as “Hope” and “If I Had My Time Again”, become amiably generic. It’s a score that serves the plot perfectly, but it’s not exactly one you ache to hear again.”
Ryan Drummond earns the singing and acting honors with his complete mastery of the Phil Connors character with spot-on body and facial movements and a singing voice with great range. A big highlight of the evening is “Night Will Come” sung by Dean Leonard near the end of the show.
Running time two hours and 40 minutes including the intermission.
THE CAST: Rinabeth Apostol as Rita Hanson; Jorge Luis Diaz as Fred, DJ, Ralph; Ryan Drummond as Phil Connors; Kathryn Han as Doris, Piano Teacher; Sophia Introna as Nancy, Joelle, Healer; Larissa Kelloway as Mrs. Lancaster, Healer; Cameron La Brie as Chubby Man, Deputy; Dean Linnard as Ned Ryerson, Healer; Michael Motroni as Mr. Cleveland, Stormchaser, Elder; Montel Anthony Nord as Jeff, Groundhog, Bartender Billy; Danielle Philapil as Mrs. Cleveland, Stormchaser, Healer; Anthony Rollins-Mullens as Sheriff, Healer; David Schiller as Jenson, Elder; Loreigna Sinclai as Debbie, Nurse, DJ; Michael Gene Sullivan as Buster, Healer; Scott Taylor-Cole as Larry, Gus.
CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Susi Damilano; Music Director, Dave Dobrusky; Choreographer, Nicole Helfer; Scenic Designer, Edward T. Morris; Costume Designer, Abra Berman; Lighting Designer, York Kennedy; Sound Designer, Teddy Hulsker; Properties Designer, Jacquelyn Scott; Projections Designer, Teddy Hulsker; Stage Manager, Sarah Marie Selig.
Kedar K. Adour, Md
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.