Bill Murray knows Groundhog Day. He’s been living it for years. You’d figure that it’d be all glad-handing and cut-ups when the beloved actor saw the musical version of his hit 1993 movie. But, while the jokes did happen, it was the tears that probably took everybody by surprise.
A story in today’s New York Times chronicles Murray’s first-ever viewing of the Broadway adaptation, highlighting the familiar cool-uncle behavior that’s made Murray a sort of folk hero:
When he arrived, he went to the bar to get a glass of water. The bartender, Janet Polanco, offered him a bottle — but Mr. Murray wanted a glass and gave a $50 tip. Then he whispered, “This is too much for a glass of water.” Mr. Murray walked to his seat mostly unnoticed. One audience member told him he looked “taller and thinner.” Murray responded, “Yeah, I’ve been working out.”
Murray’s tears came at the end of the show when Groundhog Day’s central message hit home in a different way than how he performed it:
“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.”
Groundhog Day has become a cinematic classic because it gestures at something more than just pratfalls and rom-com cliches. It’s the slightly fantastical story of a jerk becoming a better human being, told in a way that compresses all of our striving and failing into one miserable glorious day. The Harold Ramis-directed film works as a musical because there’s a magical nucleus of humanity inside, one that can still move the guy who starred in the movie two decades ago.