Let’s Do It Again: “Groundhog Day: The Musical!”

Groundhog Day The Musical. Photo by Alex Shebar

Groundhog Day The Musical. Photo by Alex Shebar
I’m going to be honest here, I buy tickets to some strange things.

But it’s hard not to. London is a city filled with events both weird and wonderful – and I want to try them all, usually dragging the lovely fiancée along. We’ve been to the most dismal place on Earth, walked through alcoholic breathable clouds, stood in an insane hall of mirrors filled with glowing pumpkins, fought with Mexican wrestlers, seen outdoor immersive theatre on famous London landmarks and saw a whole play about the apocalypse and Mr. Burns (yes, the Simpsons character). Also, just recently, we did immersive dining in a giant machine and watched Shakespeare in a park… and I mean, throughout the whole damn a park.

So a few months ago, when it was revealed that The Old Vic was doing a musical version of Groundhog Day, I bought tickets. I didn’t care it was probably going to be terrible. After all, it was a musical version  of this:

Yes, the snarky, ironic, sarcastic, and, of course, very funny Bill Murray movie. I figured, hell, let’s give it a shot.

But here’s the thing: It’s good. Really, really, really good. One of the best shows I’ve seen this entire year. And it’s not just me saying that. All the reviews are stunning (I know, I’m as surprised as you are).

“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.”

Shamaine and I went on Friday night, travelling to the beautiful Old Vic (which I really should go to more often, it’s a fantastic theatre) to see this musical. You enter your seats and are barraged by the weather, and the forecast is looking interesting.

For those of you who don’t know the story of Groundhog Day (and if this is the case, stop reading this and go watch the movie immediately), here’s the synopsis from The Old Vic:

Groundhog Day is the story of Phil Connors (Andy Karl), a cynical Pittsburgh TV weatherman who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the isolated small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, when he finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to repeat the same day again and again…and again. As each day plays out exactly the same as before Phil becomes increasingly despondent, but is there a lesson to be learnt through his experiences, will he ever unlock the secret and break the cycle?

Cute. And the show certainly plays all that out. You get confused Phil, god-like Phil who feels like he can do anything and, yes, even a musical number set to the many ways suicidal Phil tries to kill himself. That has to easily be the darkest tune playing on the London stage today. And it was amazing.

© Manuel Harlan

© Manuel Harlan

© Manuel Harlan

© Manuel Harlan

© Manuel Harlan

© Manuel Harlan

But it’s not just Karl, who kills it as the so-smug-you-want-to-hate-him-but-yearning-to-be-redeemed Phil, it’s the entire show. The sets of small town American on a dark winter day are simple and beautiful. The acting from the supporting cast is spot on. The humour twists between slapstick-laugh-out-loud and twisted-as-hell. The special effects are light but strong (there’s a scene with him getting in and out of bed that feels more like a magic trick than traditional theatre). And the choreography is fast and fun.

My only issue with it, and it’s a small one, is the music. The songs are good, but none of them are particularly memorable and I didn’t walk out humming a single one as I have with other shows. (Except maybe this Ben Folds-esq number, that honestly, I didn’t even remember until I just searched for “Groundhog Day The Musical Music”.) The songs are composed by Tim Minchin who did Matilda, and honestly, I had the same issue with that (great show, forgettable songs). However, like Matilda, they didn’t detract from the show either as some musicals do, where they insert a song just for the sake of having a song. The music melt into the show and absolutely helps the plot move along. So again, a very small complaint.

Groundhog Day The Musical. Photo by Alex Shebar

Groundhog Day The Musical. Photo by Alex Shebar

I already made the joke about wanting to do it again in the title, but dammit, it’s true. Sadly, Groundhog Day is sold out until the end of it’s run. However, I imagine, with reviews this good and a show this excellent, it will be extended. And if it does, buy tickets. Hell, buy them twice, you won’t be sad you did.

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1 Comment

  • Let’s Do It Again: "Groundhog Day: The Mus…
    September 7, 2016 - 8:00 am

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