Reviewed on Thursday 18th August 2016
In 2010 Tim Minchin set theatreland alight when his musical adaptation of Matilda premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon. The show went on to take the West End and Broadway by storm, and has now been seen by millions of people all around the world. Labelled by many as musical perfection, it was always going to be a tough act to follow.
Fast forward six years and Minchin has finally premiered his long-awaited new project, a musical adaptation of Groundhog Day, at the Old Vic. With book by Danny Rubin and direction from his former Matilda collaborator Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day takes Minchin in an entirely new direction. Based on the 1993 film, Groundhog Day centres around an arrogant celebrity weatherman who finds himself stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day (the day of Punxsutawney's annual Groundhog Day event) over and over again.
Warchus' production is stylishly staged; with different versions of the same scenes being repeated over and over again, it's a complicated piece but has been structured with intelligence. Broadway icon Andy Karl has crossed the pond to make his London stage debut as leading man Phil Connors. Karl carries the show; his stage presence is masterful, his character development is smart, his vocals are on point and, despite playing a somewhat unlikeable character, he performs with charm and wins the audience over quickly. It's hard to imagine anyone else playing this role; Karl is a top notch talent and it's a privilege to see a performer of his calibre in London, fingers crossed this isn't the last we see of him over here.
There's also a terrific performance from Carlyss Peer who keeps things real; her vocals are raw and she is naturally funny throughout. It's wonderful to see such a diverse ensemble of talented character actors popping up throughout the show in various roles. There are some hilarious cameos in different scenes and songs throughout the evening, the cast really are top notch.
Minchin's score is playful; there are some joyous company numbers with thrilling harmonies as well as some down to earth solo numbers with utterly brilliant lyrics. There wasn't a defining song that stood out for me, but perhaps this was simply due to the fact it was my first time seeing the show and hearing any of the music. I'm certainly eager for a cast album!
Whilst Matilda is the most commercial hit London has produced for years, Groundhog Day isn't the kind of show which will run and run in the West End and on Broadway for decades. It's more of a niche show and that's why I love it. Hats off to Minchin for continuing to be bold and brave - we are lucky to have someone of his calibre working in British theatre. Following the recent news that Groundhog Day's 2017 Broadway transfer has been pushed back, let's hope there could be time for this must-see show to stay in London a little longer.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Groundhog Day runs at the Old Vic to 17th September 2016.
Please visit www.oldvictheatre.com for further information and tickets.