Stephen Sondheim once thought about turning the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” into a stage musical. He gave up on the idea, saying: “It cannot be improved. It’s perfect the way it is.” And he may have been right about that, said Clive Davis in The Times – but this “glorious collaboration” between Danny Rubin, who co-wrote the film, and Tim Minchin (the composer-lyricist responsible for the global smash-hit stage musical “Matilda”) “comes as close as you could possibly imagine to reproducing the magic of the original”.
“Groundhog Day” premiered at the Old Vic in 2016, and went on to win a slew of awards. Fittingly for a musical about a man who finds himself living the same day over and over, it is back at the Old Vic, said Sarah Crompton in What’s on Stage. The brilliant Andy Karl is, once again, playing the cynical weatherman Phil Connors. “And I still love it.” In this incarnation, the show is slicker and faster. Rob Howell has simplified his design, and there’s fresh choreography by Lizzi Gee. But it remains a triumph – sardonic yet soppy; witty and wise. Where the musical differs from the film most is that here, Phil’s producer Rita isn’t “just the girl he loves, but a woman with agency and wisdom”. The story earns its happy ending, which “unfolds with grace and a sense of wonder. It is, literally, marvellous.”
Tanisha Spring turns in a sensational performance as Rita, said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. From a strong cast, “cheerleader pom-poms should be raised the highest” to salute her “endearingly puzzled, empathetic and strong-voiced” performance. But Karl is terrific, too, in an evening that manages to be both “playful and profound”. The ballads “ooze pathos”, and the staging (by Matilda’s Matthew Warchus) is full of “theatrical élan”.
Highlights of the production, said Nick Curtis in the Evening Standard, include a “deliriously inventive car chase, an exuberant tap-dance routine”, and a song in which Phil repeatedly tries to end his life, only to magically pop up each time in another part of the stage. “Groundhog Day” is simply sublime: I’d happily watch it again and again.
The Old Vic, London SE1 (0344-871 7628; oldvictheatre.com). Until 19 August. Rating ****