Thoughts On 'Groundhog Day: The Musical'


As one of my previous posts 'touched on' (in just a few brief thousand words...) I have been getting back into musical theatre lately, initially inspired by Hamilton. I decided in late 2015 that if I couldn't (yet!) actually watch Hamilton, I should do my best to take advantage as much as possible of the fact that I live in wonderful London, the most exciting theatre scene in the world, by seeing as many shows as I can while I'm here. 

The Olivier Awards were presented a few months ago (but the day before I actually started writing this post and promptly forgot...), and it's the first theatre awards season when I've actually been properly paying attention to the shows coming out, so it was pretty exciting. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child deservedly won basically all the awards, but one that somehow slipped through its magical grasp was Best New Musical, which went to Groundhog Day

I got to see Groundhog Day last summer at the Old Vic. Incidentally, I decided to see that musical in particular because of my Hamilton (and The Color Purple with Cynthia Erivo actually)-induced paranoia about missing out on the opportunity to see some kind of special theatrical event (LIKE THE TIME I SAW LESLIE ODOM JR SING DEAR THEODOSIA). This was the world premiere of the brand new musical by Tim Minchin, with a planned transfer to Broadway after its initial very limited run at the legendary Old Vic Theatre. This was my Hamilton-at-The-Public moment, and I was going to grab it with both hands. 

I turned up with my single cheap limited view ticket, and while waiting for it to start, was invited by a very nice woman to swap seats so that her and her partner could sit together, so ended up in the middle of the stalls, which was already a cracking start.

The atmosphere in the theatre was thrilling. This was a brand new musical, still in previews at that point - it hadn't even been reviewed, ever. 

As the show started, I found it charming and unusual, with fun songs and lots of humour. Being quite honest, I felt like the first half dragged very slightly - the premise of living the same day over and over again is a tough one to crack on stage, and it obviously featured quite a lot of repetition. Another issue I found was that I couldn't catch a lot of the words of the songs, as this was the first time I was hearing them and they are intricate and wordy (like the best Tim Minchin songs). As I watched I was thinking "I cannot WAIT for the soundtrack to this to come out!"

Once the setup has been established fully, the show is able to loose the reins and run away with it. The second act of Groundhog Day is incredible: hilarious, heartbreaking, shocking, magical (it has the same 'tricks coordinator' as The Cursed Child and has some genuinely gasp-inducing moments, one of which caused an impromptu round of applause) and most importantly has some really, really brilliant songs. 

It's currently running on Broadway [or at least it was at the time I originally wrote this and has since unfortunately closed in what Tim Minchin called "a post-Hamilton bottleneck"] and although it got slightly eclipsed at the Tonys by (the fantastically deserving, if the soundtrack album is anything to go by) Dear Evan Hansen, and by its own leading-man-injury-drama, it garnered very positive reviews. There is talk of it coming back to the West End in a year or so, and I will definitely be trying to see it again now that the soundtrack album is out, and lives up to the slightly inaudible promise of the previews. 

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