Life & Culture

Groundhog Day review: A repeat production of fizzing delight

There is something very familiar - and brilliant - in the stage adaptation of the 1993 movie


Groundhog Day
Old Vic | ★★★★★

Those who saw the 2016 world premiere of this musical have a right to feel an overwhelming sense of déja vu..

Once again there is the excellent Andy Karl in the role of weatherman Phil Connors played by the incomparable Billy Murray in the 1993 movie on which this show is based.

Also familiar is the excellence of the score by Tim Minchin, the composer lyricist who, with director Matthew Warchus, turned Roald Dahl’s Matilda into a smash.

But most of all, the sense of seen it all before is because of the plot, which sees Phil travel to the snowy small town of Punxsutawney for the umpteenth time where he is assigned to report on the quaint local custom of forecasting the weather with the aid of a docile rodent.

Here, city slicker Phil displays contempt for the homespun attitudes of the locals. Cynicism for these simple folk exudes from his every pore.

If Phil could leave before he arrived he would. Instead he wakes up every day in his B&B repeating the same hated day.

There is pleasure to be found in every aspect of this show. The script by the movie’s screenwriter Danny Rubin is a fizzing delight, as are Minchin’s lyrics.

Meanwhile, the psychological stages through which Phil is transformed into a decent human being are superbly evoked by the American Broadway star Karl.

He goes through confusion (in the first repeated day), anger (the next few) moving through delight when he works out that the worst consequence for his bad behaviour, even sexually exploiting the town’s population (one at a time), is that everyone starts with clean sheet and no memory the following day. Except Phil, of course.

Do not assume that the creative team behind Matilda means this show is suitable for children. Things get dark when Phil, now bored of his superpower, attempts to kill himself in multiple futile ways. There are a good few sexually explicit references too.

This is an adult show in the best possible sense.

Its heart however is not only to be found in Phil’s redemption which happens after his superpowers fail to seduce his TV producer Rita (played by the excellent Tanisha Spring), but with the characters who would be bit-part roles in lesser musicals.

Here Minchin’s songs turn these extras into fully fleshed people, and never more poignantly than when the town’s pretty cheerleader (Eve Norris) sings Playing Nancy straight to the audience.

Beginning, “Well here I am, the pretty but naive one,” it skewers the chauvinistic cliché often found in far less intelligent shows.

It is a song I’ve been playing in my head over and over.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive