In Case You Missed It: August 13-19

Week in Review   In Case You Missed It: August 13-19
 
Groundhog Day woke up to the best days its had yet, and new musical productions in Atlanta and St. Louis have Broadway-caliber casts.
Groundhog Day HR
Andy Karl Manuel Harlan

Groundhog Day, the new musical about a man who must experience the same day over and over until he gets it right, woke up to a very different day on August 16.

Up until then, an average day in the life of this long-aborning musical was pretty miserable. When it was in the news, the news was bad. The nature of that bad news varied from cycle to cycle, but that the news was usually bad did not. The most recent bout of dire tidings was the noisy exit of powerful producer Scott Rudin.

The show finally opened at London’s Old Vic Theatre this week to a very different experience. The reviews were, well, good. Actually, very good.

“Something extraordinary has happened at the Old Vic,” wrote the Telegraph. “A much-loved, ingeniously funny and clever Hollywood film has made a triumphant theatrical rebirth—in a show that looks, on first viewing, equal to, and perhaps better than, the movie.”

Better than the movie?! That’s quite a statement, since the greatest worry of fans of the Bill Murray film was that there was no way the musical to erase the reputation of the source material.

The Guardian agreed, saying “The result is fantastically smart, clever and witty,” though it added, “but I have to say it left my heart untouched.”

The New York Times was even on hand to lend its take. “It is cool (as in hip) and warm (as in cuddly); it is spiky and sentimental,” said the paper. “And it transforms its perceived weaknesses into strengths in ways that should disarm even veteran musical-haters.”

Still doubtful? This is what Variety said: “This one will run and run. And run. And run.”

That sound you hear is that of Scott Rudin grinding his teeth.

Reviews like that make everyone ask one question: When is it coming to Broadway? (Because the purpose of every good show is to transfer to Broadway.) And, indeed, soon enough. The New York Times announced that it was coming to Broadway, citing an announcement by the producers André Ptaszynski and Lia Vollack. There is no date yet, however. (Has someone suggested February 2, 2017? Surely they have.)

The musical is directed by Old Vic artistic director Matthew Warchus, with choreography by Peter Darling and designs by Rob Howell—the same team behind the West End and Broadway hit Matilda.

Based on the popular 1993 film comedy of the same title, Groundhog Day has music and lyrics by Tim Minchin (Matilda The Musical) and book by Danny Rubin (who co-scripted the film of the same name with Harold Ramis).

Andy Karl — who played the title role in Rocky — stars as Phil Connors, a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the Groundhog Day event in the small town of Punxutawney, PA, where he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again.

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Angie Schworer, Christopher Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen, Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas
Angie Schworer, Christopher Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen, Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas Jimmy Allen

The world-premiere engagement of the new musical comedy The Prom, which began previews at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta on August 18, has the kind of names attached that make you think it might be going places.

It’s directed and choreographed by Tony winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Something Rotten!), and the cast features Tony Award nominee Brooks Ashmanskas, Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, Tony Award nominee Christopher Sieber and Broadway veteran Martin Moran.

Moreover, The Prom, which is based on an original concept by Tony-winning producer Jack Viertel, was penned by Chad Beguelin (book and lyrics), Bob Martin (book) and Matthew Sklar (music). Martin is the Tony-winning co-creator of The Drowsy Chaperone. Beguelin and Sklar previously collaborated on The Wedding Singer, and Beguelin wrote some new lyrics for the Broadway production of Aladdin.

Surely, they are not all just summering in Atlanta for the heck of it.

The show tells the tale of Emma, who becomes an instant outcast—and a national headline— when her high school cancels the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend.

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The new production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s classic musical Follies at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has a pretty good cast.

The quartet of leads includes Tony Award nominees Christiane Noll (Sally) and Emily Skinner (Phyllis), alongside Broadway veterans Bradley Dean (Ben) and Adam Heller (Buddy). Offering support is another Tony nominee, Nancy Opel, as Carlotta.

Dates are September 7 to October 2. Rob Ruggiero will direct.

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Melissa Errico
Melissa Errico

The whimsical musical Finian’s Rainbow was just on Broadway in 2009, in a much-praised rendition. But an Off-Broadway company still thinks its time for a new look. And since that company is Irish Repertory Theatre, we oughta listen.

The adaptation being used is by Irish Rep artistic director Charlotte Moore. And the star is none other than Melissa Errico. Moore will direct.

Performances are set to run October 26-December 18 with an official opening night set for November 6.

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Finally, here’s your Hamilton story of the week.

A new theatre company in Illinois, S.W.A.G. (Suburban West Actors Guild), will host a Hamilton sing-along August 27 at Outta Space in Berwyn, IL.

That’s right: Hamilton has already reached The Sound of Music status.

The event is free, but the company is suggesting a $15 donation.

Fans interested in singing along to a specific part can email swagtheater@gmail.com to reserve a spot. There will be no auditions; fans will sing along to the CD, and lyric sheets will be provided.

According to the Facebook page, the opening number will be performed by two six-year-olds.

Berwyn’s got talent!

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