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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
GROUNDHOG DAY
at the Old Vic

DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Andy Karl and Carlyss Peer/ Ph: Manuel Harlan

Among his many talents, Andy Karl is especially gifted at conveying snide contempt – a skill that comes in handy at the outset of Groundhog Day, Danny Rubin’s musicalization of the script he co-wrote with Harold Ramis for the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray. Rubin has some heavy hitters as collaborators: the Matilda team of director Matthew Warchus and composer/lyricist Tim Minchin, who go all out in this distinctly adult venture.
 
Most audience members will be familiar with the premise from the outset. World-weary weatherman Phil Connors (Karl), incensed at having to cover Punxsutawney Phil’s ostensibly predictive emergence yet again, unleashes his contempt on the townspeople for whom the event is a highpoint of the year. As karmic payback, he finds himself locked in a time loop, forced to relive that one day over and over again. His actions may evolve, but they’ll have no effect on his surroundings; everyone in his orbit just replays their actions as if from a preset script.
 
In Minchin’s treatment, the variations immediately veer into some pretty wild scenarios. An early flight of fancy, in which Connors submits to a panoply of alternative therapies, is a visual you won’t soon forget (try as you might). A second-act scene of revolving suicides is also pretty strong stuff. It should come with a trigger warning.
 
But for the most part, the script promotes a familiar, warm-and-fuzzy homily: Love thy boring neighbors, and try to get to know them better – they just might surprise you. Habitual sex-object Nancy (Georgina Hagen) certainly does, at the top of Act 2. Her interaction with Connors may have been fleeting (a one-night stand), but her fervently expressed desire to matter to someone, starting with herself, proves as poignant as it is unexpected.
 
Another promising but ultimately disappointing conduit is Rita Hansen, Connors’ chipper producer and eventual love interest. Carlyss Peer plays ordinary all too convincingly. There’s nothing special about her acting or singing. But keep your eye (and ear) out for some of the seemingly less significant players. One dark horse positively slays in the eleventh hour. When uber-bore insurance salesman Ned Ryerson (Andrew Langtree), a glad-handing former classmate, launches into a haunting lament, he’s signaling a possible exit from the phenomenon of perma-déjà vu.

 


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