StageScan Pick: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day at the Old Vic garnered six five-star reviews from pro critics. Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) found “extraordinary” the “triumphant theatrical rebirth” of what Paul Taylor (Independent) called a “well-nigh flawless” film, suggesting it “perhaps better”. Henry Hitchings (ES) described “a genuinely fresh take” with “its own dizzying brand of joy”. Mark Shenton (The Stage) hailed composer Tim Minchin and director Matthew Warchus’s “most mature and striking work yet” and Cavendish also found it “sophisticated, smart” and “in a different league” from their Matilda.

Taylor felt original screenwriter Danny Rubin’s book “retunes our sense of the black hilarity and emotional depth of the central conceit”. Hitchings noted “the same nerveless mix of fantasy and misanthropy” and Cavendish enjoyed “theatrical departure points… as clear as they are exciting”. Sarah Crompton (What’s On Stage) praised “bravura confidence”.

Taylor saw Andy Karl “totally scotching the idea that Bill Murray is indispensable to this material”. Hitchings agreed he “oozes star quality… charismatic even in moments of melancholy”. Taylor praised “hilarious… jerk-you-can’t-help-but-like charm” and “devilish rhythmic cunning” and Crompton called him “a revelation”. Shenton thought this “captivating” Phil “surely his calling card to stardom”. Hitchings enjoyed Carlyss Peer’s “satisfyingly forthright” Rita, Crompton found her “gorgeously feisty and vulnerable at one and the same moment” and Cavendish judged her “sensational”. Shenton praised a “wonderful ensemble”.

Crompton enjoyed Warchus’s “deftly inspired” and “seamless” direction and Hitchings described “wit… fluency and ingenuity… superb illusions” and “nimble choreography”. Taylor hailed “a miracle of stage-craft and technical coordination”. Shenton enjoyed an “electrifying and energising parade of movement” and “amazing… sleight-of-hand” and Crompton hailed the creative team’s “brilliance” detecting “pure pleasure in the mechanisms of theatre itself”.

Shenton found Minchin’s “evocative and exhilarating” score “attention-grabbing and delightful… supremely melodic, magical, haunting and hilarious”. Cavendish saw the music “deepening the levels of irony” with “repetition and sustained notes” and Hitchings observed “half a dozen different idioms”. Taylor appreciated “a glimpse into the inner life” of Rita and found the “beautiful climactic duet… uplifting and magical”. He enjoyed “wonderful oddball humour” and Crompton found the lyrics “a constantly surprising delight” suggesting Minchin “might just be a genius”.

Hitchings praised a show which “wears its profundity lightly” and Shenton found it “adorable and funny… affecting and disturbing”. Crompton hailed “an outstanding performance at the centre of a magnificent work… a cast-iron triumph, both joyful and profound, incredibly funny and seriously moving” and Cavendish said: “It lands with the confidence of an instant classic” declaring it a “beacon of hope for new musical theatre”.

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