Andy Karl may have climbed into the boxing ring nightly in Broadway's Rocky, but it was a recent misstep onstage in Groundhog Day that nearly sidelined the actor from his leading role in the critically acclaimed new musical at the August Wilson Theatre.
It was on April 14, about two-thirds of the way through the second act when Karl—who won the Olivier for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in the London engagement of Groundhog Day—sustained a torn ACL. The show was temporarily stopped, but Karl eventually returned as weatherman Phil Connors, utilizing a cane. He finished the show, adding in a couple of ad-libbed jokes about his fall, and was visibly emotional through the end of the production, particularly, during his final bow.
“When something that debilitating happens, a really bad injury, 72 hours before opening, I felt like everything had slipped through my fingers,” Karl told Playbill the morning the Tony nominations were announced and he earned a nod for his Groundhog Day performance. “I felt like it was gone. I caught my breath, and I knew I needed to sing the last song of the show—that set the tone, that the show must go on. I knew I needed to get back on my feet and fight hard to get back on the stage for something I truly believe in. I truly believe in Groundhog Day. It certainly speaks to me in many ways, and that changes every day now. I’ve been going through so many different emotions. It’s been a wonderful life-is-art-art-is-life moment.”
The actor, whose Broadway resume also includes Saturday Night Fever, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde, 9 to 5, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and On the Twentieth Century, said his current role is meaningful to him both personally and professionally. “It was such an unexpected joy, that first time I got the script in my hand, and I’ve stuck with it since,” Karl said. “When the injury happened during previews, it was just something to overcome. I knew I needed to stick with that old saying: ’The show must go on.’ Being there for this cast and crew, who have supported me so much through all the craziness, and to represent with a nomination is really exciting for me.”
Groundhog Day marks Karl’s third Tony nomination; he was previously recognized for his work in Twentieth Century and Rocky. The actor said that recognition from the theatrical community “is astounding and not something I could have dreamed of as a kid,” adding, “I’m back to eight shows a week starting this week [of May 1]. I’m excited about that. The doctors are happy and I’m really happy to be ahead of schedule [in my recovery]. I’m getting out there and doing this show, which is all I really care about.”
Check out footage from the new musical below: