Harold Ramis and Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day is one of the best comedies to ever come out of Hollywood, its heartwarming message of self-betterment dovetailing beautifully with the script’s absurd riffs on Nietzschean philosophy. More than 20 years after its release, the film continues to capture the imaginations of viewers, with making-of accounts, fan edits, and now a Broadway production celebrating it.
The Groundhog Day musical premiered on Broadway last April, and though it has since received fawning reviews from the New York theater cognoscenti, the most important critics of all didn’t arrive until last night, when Murray himself showed up alongside co-star (and brother) Brian Doyle-Murray and co-screenwriter Danny Rubin (who also wrote the book for the musical).
The New York Times’ Sopan Deb chronicled the night both in an article and on Twitter, taking the opportunity to highlight the types of charming, offhand quirks for which Murray is known.
Most interesting, however, is Deb’s account of Murray’s reactions to the show. He pumped a fist when the Ned Ryerson character came onstage; exclaimed, “Wow!” after Rebecca Faulkenberry’s rendition of “Playing Nancy”; and, by the show’s end, was in tears.
Later, he spoke to the cast and to Deb:
“As actors, I can’t respect enough how disciplined you are and how serving you are of the process,” Mr. Murray said. “There’s nothing worse than seeing someone that’s out for themselves. And you are all in it for each other.”
He did have some suggestions, though.
“When you ever feel you don’t know what to do, sing to the person next to you,” Mr. Murray said. “And that person will sing to the person next to that person, and then you will have this force that’s even stronger.”
In an interview afterward, Mr. Murray said it was the message behind the story brought to life on stage that made him weep.
“The idea that …” Mr. Murray trailed off as he paused to collect his thoughts. “The idea that we just have to try again. We just have to try again. It’s such a beautiful, powerful idea.”
Murray typically resides behind a wall of humor and spontaneity in public, so it’s moving to see him be so emotionally open. It’s well-documented how invested Murray was in the message of Groundhog Day, a passion that eventually resulted in arguments with director Ramis and which irrevocably damaged the duo’s working relationship.
If you’re not misty-eyed already, Deb posted the entirety of Murray’s speech to the cast on Twitter. Read it in full below:
How’s that for a recommendation?