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Groundhog – 1992

(Drawing by Larry Roibal.)

 

Presented by Manhattan Theater Club, City Center Stage II, 1992; also optioned at TriStar Pictures; Francine Lefrak, Producer

 

Groundhog is a fictional downtown New York City musical based on the real life story of Billie Bogs, a homeless woman in the city. On a freezing below zero day in Manhattan, Mayor Koch and the health department forced Billie Bogs off the street and into Bellevue for her own good. She was an African American paranoid schizophrenic and they claimed she was harming herself. She sued the mayor and Bellevue and won.

 

Swados took this story and made it about a man who, not unlike my brother, was imaginative, musical and funny and sued the city and Bellevue.  Swados also added his relationship to his younger sister and how she tried to keep him alive. The musical deals with the shenanigans of the homeless and poor of the Lower East Side as well as the justice system in New York City. It is both comical and tragic. The character Groundhog (who was the fictional version of Billie Bogs) becomes famous for winning his trial and is in every newspaper as well as being invited to Harvard to speak. Since he is mad, all kinds of catastrophes take place. His relationship with his sister deteriorates as she tries to tell Groundhog supporters that he is ill and should be hospitalized.

 

This musical was performed at the Manhattan Theater Club and was optioned by Milos Forman to become a musical film. We worked on the screenplay but it was never put into production. The score for Groundhog proceeds Rent as it is a combination of the LES, rock and roll and Groundhogs wild and sometimes incomprehensible imagination.

 

Composed, written and directed by Elizabeth Swados

 

Cast:

Dr. R. T. Ebney . . . Stephen Lee

Anderson Gila . . . Anne Bobby

Judge Alex T. Waldman . . . Bill Buell

Zoe . . . Gilles Chiasson

Georgette Bergen . . . Nora Cole

District Attorney Randall . . . Ula Hedwig

Weatherperson . . . Ann Marie Milazzo

Sandy . . . Lauren Mufson

Mayor of New York . . . Daniel Neiden

Lauree . . . Suzan Postel

Groundhog . . . David Schechter

Fez . . . Tony Scheitinger Danilo

Chelnik . . . Michael Sottile

 

Musicans Paul O'Keefe, Lewis Robinson, Mr. Sottile

 

sets and costumes, G. W. Mercier

lighting, Natasha Katz

sound, Ed Fitzgerald

musical direction and arrangement, Ann Marie Milazzo and Michael Sottile

production stage manager, Richard Hester

associate artistic director, Michael Bush

general manager, Victoria Bailey