Review by MTAS Ambassador Luke Smith @lukesmithdj for @MTAS_Official & @TheatrelandRVW
*NOTE: This performance was still during previews of the musical which has it’s official opening night on Tuesday 16th August*
So if the title doesn’t give it away this week I went to see Groundhog Day at the Old Vic Theatre. The show is based on the film of the same name which follows Phil Connors, a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again.
The show is the brainchild of four of the creators from the incredible Matilda The Musical bringing together director Matthew Warchus, composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling and designer Rob Howell. It’s fair to say that the show didn’t get off to the best of starts with three preview performances being cancelled due to ‘technical difficulties’. Even when we went to see the show there was still a pause in the first half due to problems with the revolve.
The lead is played by Andy Karl whose numerous Broadway credits include Rocky, Jersey Boys, Wicked, 9 to 5, Legally Blonde and Saturday Night Fever. He is the perfect casting for the production and he makes the repetitive task of constantly changing in and out of his suit for each new day seem effortless. The subtle differences between each development must be a nightmare to remember which day he’s on but he does it with ease! Given that his character never leaves the stage it’s a tough part but one which could easily be rewarded at next years awards!
The show follows a similar line to the film with each new day being a shorter version of the one before so the audience understand the routine but then develops into the different adventures Phil tries each day as he learns what he can and can’t do…cue Minchin expertly ripping into religion, alternative medicine and therapy.
The set and lighting is minimalistic to help with the cast constantly wheeling it on and off again with each new day but there are some wonderful set pieces including a number of ways Phil tries to kill himself but constantly keeps waking up in bed, a drunken police car chase which expertly uses the 5 revolves on the stage and props to pull it off and (don’t ask) but a groundhog rocking the drum kit to a big sing-and-dance tap number in act 2! I feel sorry for the ensemble and supporting cast as I lost count of how many days the show follows and the sheer number of costume changes they have to go through at breakneck speed.
The female lead is a musical debut from Carlyss Peer. The RADA trained classical actor will follow her appearances in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe with her first musical production. Her singing voice is nice but does seem stretched at a couple of moments but these can be forgiven for her acting ability to react to the constantly changing nature of Phil. The repetative nature does lead to some moments which drag a bit and there are some scenes and songs which (personally) I don’t think you need for the overall story but they haven’t missed anything you’d need to know/see!
The music is the star of the show however giving us some beautiful reflective moments but also some hilarious and crude moments (something about masturbating 7 times in one evening??). Minchin has gone down a similar road of his beat poems to tell the story and get content into the musical along with songs musically similar and piano led like Matilda. You can play the soundtrack and hear it’s Tim Minchin as clearly as In the Heights is Lin Manuel Miranda!
In summary the show is a visual treat and balances comedy with the overarching love story perfectly to give a feel good story which also makes you laugh. There are a few moments and some language which would be inappropriate for younger audiences before you go thinking it is the next Matilda. The show is different to others in the West End at the moment as it gives you something to think about and you can try to predict how the same scenes will be different the next time you see them and watching a character develop as much as Phil does in the short space of time.
Definitely worth a watch but you’d be lucky to find many tickets left for the Old Vic run. It won’t surprise me if this gets a west-end transfer soon after it finishes there though so no need to panic. Just don’t forget to set your alarms when they go on sale!
Groundhog Day runs at the Old Vic from 16 August to 17 September.
Have you seen Groundhog Day?
If so, what did you think… do you agree with our review?
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