Review Roundup: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL Opens in London
Artistic Director of the Old Vic Matthew Warchus, composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling, and designer Rob Howell, four of the creators of the international sensation Matilda The Musical, have joined forces with writer Danny Rubin to collaborate on a new musical based on his 1993 hit film Groundhog Day. The brand-new musical had its opening today at the Old Vic and the critics are weighing in.
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?
Carlyss Peer plays Rita Hanson, and the cast features Leo Andrew, David Birch,Ste Clough, Roger Dipper, Georgina Hagen, Kieran Jae, Julie Jupp, Andrew Langtree, Vicki Lee Taylor,Emma Lindars, Antonio Magro, Carolyn Maitland,Kirsty Malpass, Lisa Mathieson, Eugene McCoy, Jenny O'Leary, Leanne Pinder, Mark Pollard,Damien Poole, Jack Shalloo, Andrew Spillett and Spencer Stafford.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: It is cool (as in hip) and warm (as in cuddly); it is spiky and sentimental. And it transforms its perceived weaknesses into strengths in ways that should disarm even veteran musical-haters.
Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: Karl is astonishingly versatile, whether embracing no-consequences criminal hedonism, making a five-course meal out of a French poem, delivering bald-faced pick-up lines, or frantically trying to recreate a perfect moment. He's a strong, expressive singer and an inspired physical comedian - his silent reactions to the daft exchanges between two soused barflies being a highlight - and the vulnerabilities he gradually reveals feel earned, intricate and honest.
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Something extraordinary has happened at the Old Vic. A much-loved, ingeniously funny and clever Hollywood film has made a triumphant theatrical rebirth - in a show that looks, on first viewing, equal to, and perhaps better than, the movie.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: Musicals based on hit movies are two-a-penny, but this one comes with an exceptional pedigree. Not only is the book written by Danny Rubin, who scripted the original 1993 film. With Tim Minchin as composer and lyricist, Matthew Warchus as director and Peter Darling as choreographer, the show also reunites the team behind Matilda the Musical. The result is fantastically smart, clever and witty, but I have to say it left my heart untouched.
Matt Trueman, Variety: This one will run and run. And run. And run... Reuniting the Tony Award-winning team behind "Matilda," "Groundhog Day" cracks open Danny Rubin's story for the 1993 Harold Ramis film to reveal the philosophies spinning beneath its surface. What seemed, onscreen, like a slight fable about a TV weatherman stuck in a time-loop starts to look like a wise old classic. Even missing a take-home tune, the sort that sticks around for days, it's the most cohesive musical in ages. Tim Minchin's score is as smart as Matthew Warchus' staging is witty.
Bill Hagerty, The Sun: The songs are witty, the sets colourful and pretty and the all-round talented cast is marshalled with great style and precision by director Matthew Warchus.
Mark Shenton, The Stage: Warchus has wrestled with such metaphysical possibilities before in the screen-to-stage musical adaptation of Ghost. He is reunited with some of the brilliant creative team from that show, many of whom also worked with Warchus on his last hit musical with Minchin, Matilda. They include ace illusionist Paul Kieve, set designer Rob Howell, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone and orchestrator and arranger Christopher Nightingale. This team has delivered its most mature and striking work yet. It's infinitely playful yet darkly serious.
Roger Crow, Huffington Post UK: While elements of the movie are missing (no soundtrack classics I've Got You Babe orPennsylvania Polka), it scarcely mattered. The transition from screen to stage is so rewarding I'm hoping this beta test version will be given a chance to shine on a bigger stage either in the West End or Broadway.
Vincent Ralph, HITC: The musical makes its world premiere at The Old Vic this summer and based on the preview I saw it is nothing short of sensational, with Rubin's book, Minchin's music and lyrics and Warchus's direction coming together to form another masterpiece.
Sarah Crompton, What's On Stage: Minchin, whisper it quietly, might just be a genius. This is such an original and warm-hearted work. But it would be nothing without direction so seamless that even a full-blown tap number seems entirely fitting. And even less without the performances. As Rita, the object of Phil's desire, Carlyss Peer is gorgeously feisty and vulnerable at one and the same moment. And Broadway star Andy Karl is a revelation as Phil, finding infinite variations of grumpy misery that are eventually transmuted into a realisation of what life is about.
Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter: Stephen Sondheim once mooted adapting Groundhog Day into a musical, only to conclude that such a project would be tampering with perfection. Warchus, Minchin and Rubin have neither ruined nor reinvented a classic modern fairy tale, but they have given it a fresh coat of paint and a lusty new spring in its step.
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail: Almost a quarter of a century ago, Groundhog Day was a hit Hollywood comedy about a TV weatherman sentenced to relive the same, boring day over and over again until he becomes a kinder person. Now it has been turned into a stage musical by Tim Minchin, the composer behind Matilda. This project, aiming for Broadway, has been given a short premiere at London's Old Vic (until September 17). It needs more work, more heart and, most of all, a leading man who can match the quirky appeal Bill Murray brought to the film.
Paul Taylor, Independent: Minchin has a sure instinct for where the characters should explore their feelings about time in song and a wonderful oddball humour: "There'll be mornings you'll be utterly defeated by your laces". It's a moot point at the moment whether the production will transfer to Broadway or the West End first after its short run at the Old Vic. But it's a fairly safe bet that, wherever it travels, this show will go on and on being a hit.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Tim Minchin has written that unlikely thing, a musical about metaphysics. It's also a genuinely fresh take on déjà vu. The source material is impeccable - who can forget the effortlessly entertaining Nineties film and the sublime Bill Murray? But this adaptation has its own dizzying brand of joy, as well as elements of real darkness.