Groundhog Day***** (Old Vic)

Posted: August 29, 2016 in Theatre

groundhog dayFlops and near-misses flow in and out of theatres, but, every so often, a new show comes along to remind us why being a musical theatre enthusiast is so, so worthwhile. This wildly witty, magically melodic, eye-popping extravaganza is definitely one to relish.

Like so many before it, this musical is adapted from a film, a notably brilliant one in which Bill Murray played Phil Connors, a TV weather man, assigned to broadcast from the small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney on 2nd February, Groundhog Day. Contemptuous of the place and its people, he finds himself in a nightmare time warp where the same day keeps repeating until he changes it bit by bit and eventually gets it right. It is a fantastical adult fairy tale, but Matthew Warchus’ swirling production never allows time for disbelief.

The big surprise is that anyone could ever surpass Murray as the egotistical, sarcastic and cynical Connors, but Broadway actor Andy Karl pulls it off with something to spare in an unforgettable performance. Carlyss Peer also nails it as Rita, the grounded assistant producer who is at odds with Connors on the first 2nd Feb, but warms to him gradually once he starts to tweak the day. Georgina Hagen appears only briefly as Nancy, casually bedded by Connors in the knowledge that there will be no payback on 3rd Feb, but she gets one of the show’s best songs, Playing Nancy, to open the second act.

Many of the songs, in a variety of styles, are memorable, both for their melodies and the cleverness of their lyrics. The creative team of Danny Rubin (book), Tim Minchin (music and lyrics) and Warchus has hit gold before with Matilda and this really is a collaborative effort, all the ingredients blending together perfectly, Peter Darling’s lively choreography and Ellen Kane’s bright costumes and revolving sets adding to the mix. If this production makes it to Broadway as scheduled, it could take something extraordinary to beat it in the 2017 Tony Awards, but, hopefully, an extended West End run will also follow. The day that you see this show will be one that you will want repeated again and again and again and….

Performance date: 24 August 2016

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