Pre-Broadway Sneak Peek: Tim Minchin's GROUNDHOG DAY at The Old Vic

From the moment that this new Tim Minchin musical was announced, I was excited to see what he would do with the source material; the story is literally a repeat of the same events over and over again and I feared that it would be a boring concept when it came to the stage. It appears though that I totally undermined the creative team's genius abilities and that's a fact that I'm very proud to state.

The stage adaptation is heavily based upon the 1993 movie of the same name as both have books penned by Danny Rubin, The story follows a local weather presenter named Phil from Pennsylvania who is asked to go the town of Punxsutawney and report on the town's traditional 'Groundhog Day', a real-life celebration from the town which happens every February 2nd when the town's infamous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil performs a trick to determine if the weather will soon warm up for Spring or not. On the day, human Phil is arrogant and rude to the staff and when the storm rolls in that night - stranding them in the town - he wakes up to soon realise that he is being forced to live the same day over and over again. For the rest of the show, we see Phil coming to terms with the fact that he might be stuck in this pocket of time for the rest of his life while he tries his hardest to make the perfect day. The story is twee, cute and somewhat rather gripping and while Phil's character is rather arrogant, you end up rooting for him even by the end of the first act.

Andy Karl as Phil and Carlyss Peer as Rita share a romantic moment on stage during Act Two

When you first enter the theatre before the show has even begun, you're immediately greeted by some of Rob Howell's stunning design for the show: the show's curtain is a massive switchboard of Pennsylvania with numerous television screens dotted across it, all showing different videos of Andy Karl's character Phil. It's effective and sets the tone of the show perfectly and he definitely starts as he means to go on. The show actually doesn't use very much big set but instead, many small pieces of set and props roll on and off to construct different scenes. My personal favourites are how the set used in the Bed and Breakfast that Phil is staying in gets more and more minimalist as he is forced to keep reliving it, and the genius scene with the car chase; the scene starts with Phil and his two barmates sat on a bench at a bar and then the car is constructed around them, all before the ensemble come in with a tiny car and tiny houses on the top of some wooden poles which they pivot towards the audience so we can see a miniaturised aerial view of the car chase. It's hilarious, very effective and incredibly intelligent and it's some fantastic design that I am still wowed by to this day.

Tim Minchin's music is obviously beautiful as well. While none of the songs have managed to stay in my head much longer than an hour after the show, he's favoured the approach of writing a series of story songs as opposed to many big showstoppers and it's a style that I appreciate. While there were a few songs that stinted the progression of the show (mainly being the one at the top of Act Two sung by Carolyn Maitland's character), the majority of the songs were purely to advance the story or to explore what was happening in more detail. Think about it as being a show full of songs like 'Miracle' from Minchin's other musical hit Matilda.

Andy Karl has "finally proven himself as being the fantastic leading actor that he was destined to become"

The cast were fantastic as well and Andy Karl seems to have finally proven himself as being the fantastic leading actor that he was destined to become. I saw him on Broadway in On The Twentieth Century and he was incredible in that, but that role - which won him a Tony nomination - seemed a little bit too small for Karl's big character. Phil Connors is a role that suits him perfectly with a vocal part that accents his powerful voice with excellence. It's a performance that I hope isn't overlooked at the Tonys next year after the show heads to Broadway. The show's other lead Carlyss Peer also made a stunning turn as Rita Hanson. She was fun, energetic and someone who I tended to feel great sympathy for throughout the show and it made a nice contrast to how brash and bold Karl's Phil Connors could be.

Groundhog Day is already in fantastic shape and Broadway will be lucky to have the show amongst its rankings next season. It's been a long time since we last saw a show manage to be both commercial and artistic with so much success and I hope that it sets a trend that new British musicals can follow for a long time to come.

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