Groundhog Day opens at the Princess Theatre

Straight from the stage of the London Old Vic, Groundhog Day the Musical is now calling the Princess Theatre home for a limited 13-week season.

The musical is based on the 1993 film, written by Danny Rubin, about a weatherman with a big ego who gets stuck in a time loop on Groundhog Day. 

Creatives such as Rubin, musician and lyricist Tim Minchin and director Matthew Warcus joined forces to produce the award-winning musical which debuted back in 2016 in London. 

After a week of previews, Groundhog Day opened on February 1 to a full house of Melbourne’s celebrities, performers and the wider arts community.

Australia’s own Tim Minchin said creatives were hoping to transfer the production into a West End theatre in the months before the season down under was announced but it wasn’t possible at the time.

“It’s not always easy to get these big West End shows to Australia, and suddenly a gap opened up (in Melbourne) and it was incredibly last minute,” Tim said.

He knows the Princess Theatre well, and feels nostalgic bringing his latest work back to the same theatre that housed Matilda the Musical in 2016.

A marching band in front of the theatre transformed opening night on Spring Street into the small-town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania – as theatre royalty, including Ronda Burchmore and Lucy Durack, made their way down the blue carpet. 

Olivier award-winning actor Andy Karl has been the only individual to play the leading role of Phil Connors, excluding understudies in London. 

Although he has been playing the role for quite some time, Andy said he still learns something new during every performance which keeps him feeling “fresh and interested”. 

“I’ve definitely grown as a person with the show. It does ask a lot of questions about who you are as a person,” he said. 

Elise McCann who just completed a national tour with Mamma Mia, steps into the role of Rita Hanson. The musical offers a full-circle moment for her too.

The Princess Theatre is where she played the role of Miss Honey in Matilda the Musical with the Australian company, and worked closely with Tim Minchin back in 2016. 

“It’s a beautiful space and you really feel the presence of the audience…it’s where I’ve had many of my career highlights,” she said.

While the show is largely reliant on humour and its ability to make the audience laugh, it also addresses some heavy topics.

“It’s about the big questions in life, like how you face the inevitability of death and how you get yourself out of depression,” Tim said.

A flurry of fake snow rained down on the opening night audience as they left the theatre, resembling the production’s finale that brings the town of Punxsutawney together. 

Groundhog Day the Musical is playing exclusively at the Princess Theatre, with tickets available at groundhogday.com.au

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Eden Hayes
Eden Hayes
Eden Hayes is a Melbourne journalist with a passion for theatre, sports and popular culture. She loves a night out at the theatre!

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