Based on the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, Groundhog Day The Musical premiered in 2016 at the Old Vic. The musical garnered critical acclaim during its London and Broadway runs and received the Olivier Award for Best New Musical, the show is now back at the Old Vic for the summer.

Cast of Groundhog Day. Andy Karl is in the centre wearing a dark coat and scarf, posing for a photo with thumbs up. Ensemble dressed as a band with blue uniform and feathers in their hats surround.
©Manuel Harlan

The plot focuses on Phil Connors, a television weatherman, who travels to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover Groundhog Day, an annual festival in which the animal predicts if winter will last longer or not. During this trip, Phil becomes stuck living the same day – Groundhog Day – repeatedly.

Rob Howell’s staging is a masterpiece, it’s a visual feast for the eyes, truly bringing this production to life. From small houses on a revolving set piece, illuminated houses at the bottom of the snowy scenery to resemble a town in the background, plus numerous settings throughout the town including Phil’s B&B room, a diner, and a bar – there is a lot to this set, there are so many settings it almost feels movie-like. What is most impressive is the slickness of the transitions, with many rapid changes, these set pieces and scenery are rotated through with ease, it’s never clunky or elongated and not once is the pacing disrupted, which is no small feat. Hugh Vanstone’s lighting is especially beautiful during a scene using huge fairy lights which the cast move to create a fairground, flooding the stage in bright colours, it’s a very effective way of bringing the scene to life.

The show does feel slow to get going as it sets up the plot and introduces the characters, but this is soon negated as the repetition begins, with incredibly short, snappy scenes implemented throughout, the remainder of the show flies by. Danny Rubin’s script does feature some lines which feel more reminiscent of the 90s, however, they work to build the character of Phil Connors (who at the beginning of the show is a jerk) allowing the audience to see the character’s progression.

Groundhog Day production shot. Andy Karl and Tanisha Spring are on a fairground ride.
©Manuel Harlan

Andy Karl is the star of the show in the role of Phil, his reactions to every other character are the highlight of the entire production. You watch as his fuse gets shorter and shorter, his reactions become more sarcastic, and his expressions become deadpan. Tanisha Spring is wonderful as Rita Hanson, displaying powerhouse vocals, and it’s so much fun to watch Rita keep Phil on his toes throughout. The ensemble is astounding, despite the repetition of the dance sequences, their energy never dissipates, and every move is executed perfectly.

Tim Minchin’s score is wonderfully varied, you never once feel bored of the music, and it drives the show’s plot well, his lyrics are witty and cause raucous laughter. The standout number is ‘Hope’, the reasons for which are twofold; with Karl’s gritty vocals and more of a rock music sound to the number, it’s a key point within the show which flawlessly puts Phil’s pain at the forefront, fueling it palpable emotion. The second reason is the staging of this number, this is where Matthew Warchus’ expert direction shines brightest, this scene is choreographed to perfection, leading to moments where your mouth drops open, and you ask the person next to you – “How did that happen?” Karl is somewhere onstage and in the same second reappears back in bed, it’s a scene brimming with stagey magic, and truly astounds.

Groundhog Day may be repetitive by design, but never once do you feel bored. With visually stunning staging, vocal powerhouse performances, Minchin’s earworms, and a plot which captivates throughout – this is a show you could watch on repeat, this is a true work of art.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Groundhog Day is on at the Old Vic until the 19th of August – info here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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