It seems that our wee secret has leaked: I’m working on a stage musical adaptation of the iconic and brilliant Danny Rubin script, Groundhog Day. Danny himself is writing the ‘book’, I’m writing music and lyrics, and Matthew Warchus (of Matilda fame) is directing.
For the handful of you who’ve never seen the film (philistines!), Groundhog Day is about a cantankerous weatherman who is sent to a small town to do a weather report, and gets stuck in a time loop, living the same day over and over again until – eventually – he figures out how to be less of a miserable, egotistical git. It’s about selflessness and acceptance and love and time and life and death and all that good stuff.
The 1993 Sony Pictures film was directed by Harold Ramis and starred Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, and is a true comedy classic. However, it would be impossible to try to translate the style and tone of the movie to stage… and even if it were possible, it wouldn’t interest me. (Or Danny or Matthew, for that matter).
Our version of Groundhog Day is going to be both instantly recognizable, and utterly different.
The central conceit is perfectly suited to the theatre, in my opinion. In fact, I think many of its ideas could be enhanced by the stage. It has the potential to be complex, dark, visually fascinating, and thematically rich, whilst still being a joyous romantic comedy with cool tunes and lots of gags. It’s certainly not an easy job, and I’m truly honoured – and genuinely excited – that Danny is letting me have a crack at it.
The idea of a Groundhog Day musical is not new; famously, Stephen Sondheim was rumoured to be working on the idea five or ten years ago. I’ve actually spoken to him about it (he is – if you’re wondering – a brilliant, witty, charming man), and the truth is he was only ever tossing the idea around. It got put on the back burner, and he is now happy that we’re making a go of it. We have Steve’s blessing – and it’s a blessing I value enormously.
So, we’re aiming for a workshop sometime towards summer, and hopefully we’ll have it on stage within a couple of years. But who knows? Maybe the whole project will get caught in a temporal vortex and we won’t be able to finish writing it until we’ve achieved wisdom.
Either way, you won’t hear any more about it from us until we know where and when we’re going to put it on. Back to work!
PS I actually played two of the ballads from GhD at Koko in Camden a few weeks ago. Not sure whether, out of context, they meant anything to those of you who were there, but I hope you enjoyed them. I suspect some of you guessed the project ages ago anyway!