Groundhog Day | The Old Vic | Review

Groundhog Day

The Old Vic

Booking until August 19th 2023

A third musical based on an iconic film from a few decades ago is currently enthralling theatre goers in London, not in the traditional West End but at the Old Vic, a few hundred yards from Waterloo. Back to the Future was pretty dreadful, Mrs Doubtfire a roaring success and Groundhog Day is a jaw-dropping, magnificently adapted, visual treat.

Based on the 1993 film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, this is the story of Phil Connors (a terrific performance by Andy Karl), a cynical television weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who becomes trapped in a time loop, forcing him to relive February 2 repeatedly.

The tradition is that if a groundhog emerges from its hole on this day, sees its shadow, is scared and runs back into its burrow, then six more weeks of winter weather are predicted. If there’s no shadow, then early spring is on its way.

Misanthropic, philandering Phil might have been the role that Bill Murray was born to play and it would have been easy to mimic his performance in true Back to the Future style, however, Karl plays the story’s anti-hero with a goofy vigour and it is enough to shake off any memories of Murray’s screen performance. He is quite simply superb and his comic timing is immaculate.

Tim Minchin’s music is bewitching, with songs coming thick and fast and lyrics which are clever, witty and very, very funny. Songs like Playing Nancy (a stunning Eve Norris), If I Had My Time Again and Hope radiate with bursts of comic brilliance. Director Matthew Warchus makes up two-thirds of the dream team that made Matilda the Musical such a smash hit although it’s possible this complex, profound, moving and hugely enjoyable musical is even better than its more famous stablemate.

There are wonderful performances by Tanisha Spring as Phil’s producer, Rita Hanson, Andrew Langtree as Phil’s old friend Ned Ryerson and Annie Wensak as Mrs Lancaster who offers Phil poor morning coffee on a daily basis.

This is one theatrical experience I would happily repeat indefinitely so as the production reaches the end of its run at the Old Vic lets hope for a transfer or at least a UK tour.


Reviewer: Patric Kearns