So welcome back, Groundhog Day. We could happily watch you over and over again.
Andy Karl (Phil Connors) and Tanisha Spring (Rita Hanson) in Groundhog Day at The Old Vic
Back off Broadway, we might just have the best new musical since Hamilton – right here in London.
A new day has dawned for hit 1993 film Groundhog Day. It brings a songbook bursting with instant classics and even a touch of tap dancing.
On stage the story of a man’s time loop has the rare combination of humour, heart and eccentricity that made Matilda the Musical so beloved — which isn’t surprising. This new musical reunites the same creative team.
Director Matthew Warchus commands a pacy production, making an inherently repetitive plot freshly funny over and over again.
Comedian Tim Minchin is veering close to Icon status with lyrics that encompass filthy humour, surrealism and tender self-discovery. The score is like a soundtrack to small town Americana, borrowing from blues, country, soul and proper power ballads.
Plus, fans of the film need not fear audacious adaptation: scriptwriter Danny Rubin (who won a BAFTA for the Groundhog Day screenplay) has reworked the story for the stage.
It’s a well-known tale. Even if you enter the theatre ignorant, Phil Connors’s plight will soon feel familiar. The arrogant TV weatherman can’t wait to be done covering Punxsutawney's annual Groundhog Day revelry. Then he wakes up to the exact same day, again and again and again.
Any concern that lead actor Andy Karl won’t live up to the precedent set by Bill Murray on film is quashed immediately. Karl has the kind of infectious comic delivery that dissolves entire auditoriums with just the slightest inflection or gesture.
He is likeable as the asshole who uses this endless, inconsequential time to drink drive and sleep with 90% of the town’s female population (and some of its men, too). And he’s still relatable as a peppy do-gooder, scooping a homeless man off the streets, facilitating an engagement and buying presents for the townspeople.
We lurch from silly to surreal to complete desperation before the philosophical impacts of the time-warp premise take hold. The quirky staging captures some of that 90s naivety, with occasional, gasp-worthy illusions reminding of the plot’s dependence on something magical.
All the ingredients for a feel good blockbuster are present and of the highest quality, but what really sets this apart from its West End musical ancestors and the eponymous film is the moments of subversion and self-awareness.
The female secondary characters, so forgettable in the film, are given a voice to make witty comments on their own limited role; one riotous song pokes fun at a hollow cash-cow of a health system doling out reiki, gluten-free diets and bovine tranquilizers; and the whole capacity for cheesy moralising is kept in check with the slight tilt of satire.
|What||Groundhog Day, Old Vic review|
|Where||The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
20 May 23 – 12 Aug 23, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|