Groundhog Day is a musical with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and a book by Danny Rubin, based on the 1993 film of the same name.
The musical made its world premiere at The Old Vic in the summer of 2016 and this summer, after eight years, makes its long-clamoured return to the same theatre.
Groundhog Day follows TV weatherman Phil, who reluctantly goes to cover the story of Punxsutawney Phil for the third year in a row. Making no effort to hide his frustration, he covers the story and moves on, expecting his job to be finished. However, he awakes the "following" day and discovers that he is doomed to re-live the same day time and again. He soon realizes he must take advantage of it to secure the love of a co-worker Rita.
Tim Minchin's songs cover a wide range of emotions. Some of them are silly, some sweet, some bitter, and tap into the darkness beneath the sunshine of Groundhog Day. But beyond the lyrics, I found the music uninspiring.
Andy Karl reprises his role which earned him an Olivier Award as Phil Connors. He has the skill to carry the show and the charm needed to make the main character likeable. He goes through a total transformation, from a selfish, dissatisfied, unpleasant man who sees Rita just as a prize to win, to someone who really cares, romantic and emotionally engaged. The ballad “Seeing you” is the perfect song to celebrate the moment the couple hooks up.
A charming Tanisha Spring plays Rita. Sometimes tough, sometimes vulnerable, we get to know her well in the second act, with the songs “February 2nd “and “If I had my time again” – both sung beautifully by the actress.
There is then a constellation of smaller characters: Ned Ryerson, Nancy, Gus and Ralph, and the TV cameraman – a wonderful parade of personalities. Because the action in the story repeats with slight changes several times, the characters make subtle and amusing tweaks and they are all given a voice. This ensemble is hard working from start to finish.
Under the direction of Matthew Warchus, and the unique, constantly-in-motion set by Rob Howell, the show moves quickly.
Conversion from stage to screen is something that can go either way. But this is an ingenuous, fun, inspired and inventive one.
It runs until 12 August.
Photo: Manuel Harlan