Published: 26 August, 2016
by DAN CARRIER
GRUMPY Pittsburgh weather forecaster Phil Connors (Andy Karl) is thoroughly unpleasant, so is taught a lesson by Old Master Time.
This is the gist of the hit 1993 film, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, and this stage show takes this complicated concept and translates it brilliantly into a live experience.
Such is the complexity of telling the story, this super-flash rendition feels a little like a Disney World-style ride based on the film. But no matter – with a knock-out cast and words and music by Tim Minchin, the grandiosity of the production does not swamp the actors, rather it gives them a spectacular backdrop to take us through the events of Groundhog Day.
Connors is sent every year to the back water of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover a quaint tale as to whether the Groundhog – “it’s like a squirrel, it’s like a beaver, but actually, it’s really neither,” as the cast sing – will see a shadow, thus predicting another six weeks of winter.
Connors hates the gig, and so when he finds himself caught in a weird time loop reliving the day over and over, he must battle his despondency and find a way to break the magic that has caught him in his own idea of hell.
Minchin’s words and music are great, but they suffer a little from his wit and exuberance. You are busy chortling at one line being belted out when another comes along and consumes it all too quickly. It feels like the lyrical jokes are rushed.
But this a true spectacle. The set is astonishing, packed with dream-like sequences and even puppetry to illustrate a car chase.
As for Karl in the lead, his is a performance takes you along with the fantasy, and makes you shudder at the true horror of his situation. Above all, this stage version, for all of its technical thrills and lovely performances, wins for one stand-out reason: the final scene is as beautifully romantic as you could want, and will make you clutch your nearest and dearest a little closer as the cast take their bows.
UNTIL SEPTEMBER 17
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