Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Josh Lamon

Groundhog Day – The Musical – Stuck in Rewind


The 1993 film Groundhog Day is something of a cult classic. When masterfully wry Bill Murray (as weatherman Phil Connors) is forced to relive the ersatz holiday (until he gets a heart and gets it right) in mawkishly chipper Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, audiences reveled in every quip and Machiavellian move.

The good news is that Andy Karl is up to the task in this, a musical version. Not since 2015’s On the Twentieth Century has Karl had the opportunity to showcase his comic chops as well as leading man vocals. Despite a knee injury that briefly sidelined the actor, he adroitly employs physical humor as well as superb timing. At one point this evening, the actor lays his thoroughly braced leg across a counter stool attempting to seduce the character’s associate producer Rita Hanson (the capable, but undistinguished Barrett Doss).   Onstage virtually throughout, Karl holds the piece together with unflagging charisma.

Groundhog Day August Wilson Theatre

The Company- Andy Karl, center

Also in Column A, book (and earlier screenplay) writer Danny Rubin maintains his hero’s dark disposition and wit, Rita’s resistance (somewhat updated with a mourned loss of sweetness), and the loopy friendliness of townspeople.

The look of this production under Rob Howell’s stewardship, is often inspired. “It just better be a big van,” Connors snaps when told he won’t be traveling south by limousine. We next see an irresistible, toy-sized conveyance spot-lit on the empty stage as it makes its way through night fog. A credible truck frame is literally built around Connors and two locals out on a bender. Chased by police in their own faux car-fronts replete with flashing lights, three vehicles shrink to 16” versions racing through a town of streets with seemingly floating houses.

The six-foot plus groundhog never fails to amuse. A revolving stage is used with great success as is the rotating set piece revealing Connor’s bed and breakfast bedroom. (Caveats: local women with whom the weatherman briefly frolics wear out of place, glow-in-the-dark lingerie and two townspeople wear obvious fat suits .)

Groundhog Day August Wilson Theatre

Andy Karl

Video by Andrzej Goulding, impressionistic Lighting Design by Hugh Vanstone, and nifty illusions by Paul Kieve add to delight.

Now for the disappointing and unfortunately prevailing Column B. Songwriter Tim Minchin, who in my opinion did a brilliant job with Matilda, offers mostly tuneless numbers with prose that unsuccessfully fights to fit music. Though lyrics can be extremely clever, they don’t sing. Several rock n’roll numbers arrive cacophonous and as if in the wrong show. (Generic choreography by Peter Darling doesn’t help.)

Both ostensibly misjudged town hottie Nancy (Rebecca Faulenberry) and Phil’s former schoolmate Ned (John Sanders), minor characters, are given entirely superfluous numbers. The visit to a doctor in the film is blown out of proportion into a long, forced number featuring attempts by practitioners from faith healers to psychologists. A  carnival ride is added without logic or context.

Groundhog Day August Wilson Theatre

Barrett Doss, Andy Karl

Some of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Director Michael Warchus whose skill and imagination with Matilda plus a long list of other material, promised way better. To give him his due, Warchus deftly conveys repetition and Phil’s radically changing activity/attitude over the passing of days – though a parentheses of successive suicide attempts by company members dressed as Phil seems excessive as we’ve already seen the hero himself try and fail.

The only person with developed personality traits, however, is Connors. Brief character turns feel walked-through, eschewing opportunities for bright cameos. Ned isn’t geeky enough, the landlady lacks cliché coziness. Rita’s tough cookie persona is one dimensional. Exceptions: Gus (Andrew Call) and Ralph (Raymond J. Lee) showcase appealing quirk in a bar number with Phil and Josh Lamon flickers in and out with some brio.

Judging by audible reaction, not all audience members are familiar with the story which remains appealing, but the work is not up to its creators.

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Andy Karl

Groundhog Day-The Musical
Book by Danny Rubin
Music & Lyrics by Tim Minchin
Directed by Matthew Warchus
August Wilson Theatre
245 West 52 Street

Road Show – The Journey of a Sondheim Show


Getting into the elevator following Signature Theatre’s production of Road Show, one woman was overheard saying to her friend: “I liked West Side Story better.” The musicals have Stephen Sondheim in common. (He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, the music and lyrics for Road Show.) But while revivals of West Side Story often receive rave reviews, including the recent one at Signature, Road Show has always been a harder sell. In fact, the musical’s journey, which included a lawsuit, title changes, and a total overhaul, resembles in many ways the story it tells of two brothers who criss cross the country in search of success but instead meet with disappointment.

Yet for true Sondheim fans, Road Show should not be missed. And Signature’s production, which benefits from substantive changes made during the musical’s run at the Chicago Shakespeare Festival, features an enthusiastic and talented cast, smart direction, creative staging, appealing period perfect costumes, and musical accompaniment evocative of the early 1900s. Songs are quintessential Sondheim, with clever, fast-paced lyrics that compliment the action and move the story along.


Noah Racey and Cast

Road Show is the fictional story of Addison Mizner and his brother, Wilson. Following the death of their father, their mother encourages them to go out and seek their fortune. They begin that quest in Alaska, hoping to strike it rich during the gold rush. They do find gold but Wilson, a compulsive gambler who has a talent for manipulating people, loses their claim in a poker game. Addison leaves in disgust and ends up in New York. He shows promise as an architect, and lands his first client, a rich widow, who wants him to design a pool house. Before he can do that, however, Wilson shows up, seduces the widow, marries her, and fritters away her fortune on boxing matches and horse races.


Matthew Schleich, Josh Lamon and Noah Racey

After their mother dies, Addison travels to Florida lured by the state’s land boom. Soon, he’s building mansions for the wealthy in Palm Beach. He also takes a lover, Hollis Bessemer, the son of a wealthy industrialist who has been cut off by his father. Hollis’ dream is to create an artists’ colony, but that plan is put on hold while the two enjoy each other and their new found wealth. When Wilson shows up, once again down on his luck, he comes up with a scheme to build a new city, Boca Raton. Once Hollis is convinced, Addison agrees, but Wilson’s plan is soon revealed as a scam. Addison loses everything – his wealth, his lover, and his reputation. The two brothers end up where they began, penniless and alone.


Josh Lamon and Noah Racey

Without two strong leads, the story would fall flat. Fortunately, casting here is inspired. As Addison, Josh Lamon is the larger stage presence but he’s putty in his brother’s hands. Lamon’s body language and facial expressions speak volumes, showing the conflict that he suffers whenever he must weigh the love he feels for his brother against doing what’s right. Noah Racey’s Wilson is the charming rogue, able to win over most everyone he meets. Yet when Racey flashes that Cheshire cat grin, we know there’s malice behind those good looks.

Each member of the supporting cast assumes more than one role. Transformations are skillfully managed and each character appears distinct. A large map of the U.S. serves as a backdrop while small lights pinpoint the brothers’ travels. Scenery while minimal, works well, creating the right atmosphere without distracting from the action.

Road Show isn’t Sondheim’s best. But it is Sondheim and true fans will find much to discuss after this road show.

Photos by Margot Schulman
Opening: Noah Racey, Josh Lamon, and Sherri L. Edelen

Road Show
Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, Virginia
Directed by Gary Griffin
Music Direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
With Erin Driscoll, Sherri L. Edelen, Stefan Alexander Kempski, Jason J. Labrador, Josh Lamon, Jake Mahler, Dan Manning, Angela Miller, Noah Race, Matthew Schleich, and Bobby Smith