Photo: Manuel Harlan

The Groundhog Day musical premiered in 2016 at The Old Vic Theatre in London to rave reviews, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke why fix it? It has just reopened at the same theatre with Andy Karl reprising the lead role. The show reunites the creative team of songwriter Tim Minchin and director Matthew Warchus, who collaborated on the West End production of the wonderful Matilda musical, and the book is written by Danny Rubin – the screenwriter for the original 1993 film.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it tells the tale of TV weatherman Phil Connors (Andy Karl), who is sent to the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to report an annual local tradition where a groundhog predicts which day spring will begin. Phil finds himself in a nightmare scenario: every day he wakes up and it’s February 2nd – he is forced to report on this silly ceremony again, and again, and again. Over the course of the musical we see him play the day differently each time – initially to have fun, or to find coping mechanisms, and then ultimately looking for a way out of his predicament.

It’s an entertaining affair – many of the key scenes and jokes remain intact from the film, and a hearty dose of additional humour has been injected through Tim Minchin’s songs. The melodies may not be quite as memorable as those found in Matilda, but they’re lyrically just as sharp, with countless amusing punchlines and wry observations. The staging is creative, too; there’s an endlessly-inventive car chase scene, and a surprisingly amusing sketch where we see Phil repeatedly try to take his own life as a way out of this nightmare, only for any attempt to fail and for him to reappear improbably quickly elsewhere on stage.

We had an enjoyable evening with Groundhog Day – it may not be pushing any boundaries, but it will feel cosy and familiar to anyone who’s acquainted with the film or who may have caught the previous run of this production. It’s certainly a story we’re happy to revisit, and the songs are a welcome addition. Fans of the film and/or Tim Minchin’s music are guaranteed a good night out.

GAY TIMES gives Groundhog Day – 4/5

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