Review: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL at Princess Theatre

5 STARS - This excellent and exquisitely existential musical will bring a tear to your eye, and have you leaving with a permanently fixed grin on your face.

By: Feb. 04, 2024
Review: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL at Princess Theatre
Groundhog Day The Musical is perfection - 5 Stars! Fun and witty, with elements of dark humour, yet also philosophically heart-warming. This musical provides an excellent psychological examination of the human condition and not only honours, but excellently extends upon, the classic Columbia Pictures 1993 film of the same name. In Groundhog Day’s story, a television weather reporter, Phil Connors, finds himself stuck in small-town Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where he is forced to relive February 2nd, Groundhog Day, over and over. Momentous and remarkable, Groundhog Day The Musical is a must-see….you will not be disappointed!
 

This excellent and exquisitely existential musical, which portrays a flawed protagonist’s journey to transformation, will bring a tear to your eye and have you leaving Melbourne’s Princess Theatre with a permanently fixed grin on your face. Beginning life as a musical in 2016, at London’s Old Vic Theatre, Groundhog Day won an Olivier Award for Best New Musical, and a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Musical. The Show then debuted on Broadway in 2017, being nominated for seven Tony Awards. Such appeal as a musical has Groundhog Day had, that it sparked a revival at London’s Old Vic Theatre last year, which has now led to the current Melbourne production.

Review: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL at Princess Theatre
Elise McCann and Andy Karl
Photo by Jeff Busby

What really makes this production not only a success, but a triumph, is how all the creative ‘moving parts’ magnificently come together onstage. Groundhog Day’s thought-provoking story by Danny Rubin, outstanding musical development and direction by Matthew Warchus, and intellectually witty and sublime music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, will have you wanting to return to ‘relive’ Groundhog Day, time and time again. Christopher Nightingale’s music supervision, orchestrations, and dance arrangements are wonderful, and provide stylistically insightful ‘variations on a theme’, when portraying Phil Connors reliving of February 2nd, over and over. This reliving of Groundhog Day again and again, is also further strengthened through Lizzi Gee’s choreography, Rob Howell’s set & costume design, Hugh Vanstone’s lighting design, and Paul Kieve’s impressive illusions.

Punxsutawney’s community is delightfully portrayed, over and over, eight times a week, by a fantastic Australian ensemble cast, with highlights including performances by Ashleigh Rubenach as Nancy, Connor Neylon as Gus, Connor Sweeney as Ralph, and Tim Wright as Ned. As she does in all her work, Elise McCann, flourishes as producer Rita Hanson, bringing lots of heart and soul to the character. Reprising his role from both London Old Vic productions, and the Broadway production, Andy Karl’s portrayal of Phil Connors is exceptional. So nuanced, raw, and hilarious is Karl’s performance, to date, he has won an Olivier Award, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, as well as a Tony nomination for this portrayal. Karl’s performance as Phil Connors and his ability to express and portray the various layers of his character’s transformation, all culminate in his performance being one that you don’t want to miss!

Review: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL at Princess Theatre
Connor Neylon, Connor Sweeney and Andy Karl
Photo by Jeff Busby

However, the best feedback any musical can receive is from its audience, and if Groundhog Day’s Melbourne opening night audience is any indication, this Show is set to wow Australians. It is rare to see a production where the electrical magic of theatre comes so strongly to life. On opening night, such was the connection of the actors and audience to not only the story, but also to each other, that when a moment of silence occurred onstage, you could have heard a pin drop in the 1452-seat, three-level auditorium. I overheard when leaving the theatre, a fellow audience member declaring with joy that this was a musical that could be seen 50 times over. I absolutely agree.

Groundhog Day The Musical is playing at the Princess Theatre through to April. Make sure to get in quick!

Review: GROUNDHOG DAY THE MUSICAL at Princess Theatre
Andy Karl
Photo by Jeff Busby



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