Review: GROUNDHOG DAY, Old Vic

Slicker, shinier and absurdly entertaining.

By: Jun. 09, 2023
Review: GROUNDHOG DAY, Old Vic

Review: GROUNDHOG DAY, Old Vic There’s more than a whiff of familiarity down at London’s Waterloo at the moment; Olivier award-winning Groundhog Day is back at the Old Vic and so is Andy Karl, playing the sneering weatherman Phil Connors. We loved it, Broadway didn't, but this revival is a veritable theatrical triumph and a heartwarming treat for anyone lucky enough to get a ticket.

Danny Rubin’s story (who wrote the original 1993 movie, starring Bill Murray) follows weatherman Phil Connors as he is forced to rural Punxsutawney, Philadelphia to report on the annual tradition of Groundhog Day, where a groundhog, also named Phil, will predict the arrival of spring. When a blizzard traps the crew in the town, Phil realises that he condemned to relive the same day for the rest of his life.

Matthew Warchus’ production is now slicker, shinier and even more absurdly entertaining. For all its slapstick comedy, ultimately, the show is about the redemption of a man who had become so cynical of life that it has lost all its meaning.

Andy Karl has been playing Phil Connors since the production first opened seven years ago and is so perfect as that is hard to imagine an alternative actor playing the role. Charming, yet mockingly contemptuous of everyone and everything, Karl relishes retaining Phil’s sharp edge in the show, repeatedly wooing his producer Rita with ever-more elaborate set-ups, until he is tripped up by his ego and desire just to get her into bed. He shows real growth as his character realises that his life could be so much more fulfilled if he simply treated people with kindness and humanity.

Tanisha Spring gives the role of Rita real clout; her character is looking for love, but not at any cost. Spring is assertive yet shows flashes of vulnerability too; she also has a lovely clarity to her voice.

There is no weak link in an incredibly energetic supporting cast, with great work from Andrew Langtree, Billy Nevers and Eve Norris in particular. Norris gives a beautifully touching rendition of the poignant second act opener “Playing Nancy”.

Tim Minchin’s incredibly varied music and often ingenious lyrics compliment Warchus’ clever direction, which means that the story is established and explored without ever becoming frustrating in its repetition.

The production is a masterclass in stage craft; there is a brilliantly realised car chase, and a section where Phil repeatedly tries to kill himself, only to magically reappear elsewhere on stage, is simply magnificent.

Rob Howell’s intricate set includes celebratory parades, Phil’s tired bed and breakfast and a diner and transforms almost imperceptibly. Hugh Vanstone’s lighting, Paul Kieve's illusions and Andrezej Goulding's animations also deserve huge credit for creating both atmosphere and drama. Lizzie Gee’s choreography is also epic, with a particular highlight of a wonderful tap routine.

Funny and warm, silly yet touching, Groundhog Day is a deft and delicious delight and that cannot be repeated enough.

Read our fascinating interview with Andy Karl here.

Groundhog Day is at the Old Vic until 19 August

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

2023 Regional Awards


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