Old Vic Theatre
Imagine, going off to some small community village in the middle of nowhere to watch the whole town celebrating a ground hog! Not even that, but their life’s actions will be shaped over the next few months on the outcome of what this groundhog does when it is released from its burrow!
But then to find that you go to bed each night only to wake and up and celebrate that whole day over and over again, with everyone else not knowing you have been through it before in exactly the same way!
Groundhog day the musical like the film starring Bill Murray follows an arrogant TV weatherman Phil Connors (Andy Karl), who gets stuck reporting on an annual “Groundhog Day” event. Based on the Book by the screenwriter of the 1993 film, Danny Rubin. This adaptation is filled with brilliant comedy and some great and mediocre musical tunes written however by the multi-talented Tim Minchin. The music repeats for obvious reasons and sometimes you could drift off, but then it changes and as the show moves along, you are back in.
As you enter the theatre you are greeted with several TV screen of Phil Connors various weather reporting TV programmes. Hanging on a big frame at the front of the stage. Behind is a miniature town in the American outback.
The whole show is the story of How bad becomes good and lessons can learned along the way. From a TV anchorman who knows it all and is as arrogant as they come, who will be stuck and will repeat the same day over and over again until he learns to change his ways for the better and think of other people rather than himself. Furthermore to be able to treat people like humans rather than objects for his entertainment.
The first half is a slow burn, but it does get better as the show goes on. More so in the second half. Lots of songs with un-memorable lyrics will be heard and they come and they go. BUT the occasional song, hits the spot. One song that sticks in your memory is performed by Karl, where he sings about the role of an anchorman.
Having seduced most of the females in the town and other mischievous activities for his own amusement, his attention turns to his producer and so he tries to seduce her. But every step for him is a failure, even when he remembers key facts about her from previous days, he manages to muck it up. However, slowly and surely, his attitude is turned for the good and his ‘day repeat’ routine is suddenly no more when he becomes kind and considerate. At last he can finally share a sunrise with his true love. Something he has missed since this whole weird adventure began.
The show is cleverly directed by Matthew Warchus. Rob Howell’s set creates the hallucinatory effect of a recurring dream, including troupes in top hats and a high-kicking cheerleaders including pompoms all beautifully and practically choreographed by Lizzi Gee.
Like some other shows now on the West end. Models are often used to put across a point. Groundhog Day is no exception. A drunken late-night car ride goes from a life-size chase on stage to an aerial view with model cars and snow storms supplied by an overgrown groundhog with a snow filled shovel.
There is as always and like the film a moral lesson at its heart – “Isn’t it a wonderful life when you’re a good person?”. Points us towards Phil becoming more considerate to others, to saving lives and other acts of kindness. A very physical part of the show for Andy Karl, but he rises to the challenge and does so well.
For me the show was a slow burn, but worth the wait. The second half becomes more intense and more physical with Phil involved in a village scene then waking in his hotel bed, without us noticing the switch. Very clever. I enjoyed the show and watching the process Phil goes through and how he changes his ways. Songs are great but easily forgotten, apart from a couple. The set is minimalist, but works well. The acting is great and so is the choreography. This is worth a trip to the Old Vic and I can highly recommend the show. A Tim Minchin triumph and a wonderful platform to launch a great career for Andy Karl. It is no surprise that he has won a lot of awards. Go see, you won’t be disappointed.
4 Stars out of 5
Reviewers Mark Bilsby and Alison Gabriel