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Rosen Trevithick

About Rosen Trevithick

Rosen was born in Cornwall. She studied psychology at Oxford before moving back to the West Country.

Readers have downloaded over a quarter of a million copies of Rosen's books. Several titles have broken into the Amazon charts, including a number 1 humorous fiction bestseller.

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16.08.2016 13:54
Groundhog Day the Musical

Groundhog Day the Musical

It's hard to surpass a fantastic film like Groundhog Day, the classic time-loop comedy written by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray. Yet Matthew Warchus and Tim Minchin expertly pull it off with the extraordinary Groundhog Day the Musical.

I stumbled upon the show almost by accident, having never seen it advertised or even mentioned anywhere. I was looking for a show to bolt onto a planned London trip. The lazy marketing visuals reminiscent of pound shop flyers, frustrating website and relatively short run, caused me to assume it would be a relatively small production. Then I saw a Tim Minchin clip on the website and goosebumps rose from my skin. Not only have I loved his musical stand-up for many years, but was blown away by Matilda the Musical earlier in the year, for which he wrote the music and lyrics. As more and more appealing ingredients - choreographer Peter Darling and designer Rob Howell - were revealed, my determination to get tickets exploded.

Groundhog Day the Musical is described as a 'short test run'. The show opens on 16th August after one month of previews, only to close again four weeks later. It is believed this is in preparation for a Broadway launch next year. This only serves to make the performance even more special for those lucky enough to catch the show in London.

The show starts a little slowly. The Musical numbers are superb and set the scene adequately but don't immediately reveal the true brilliance of the show as a whole. The town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is dark, icy and its superstitious people are pleased far too easily for the likes of weatherman and central character Phil Connors, whose arrogance comes across beautifully, right from the start.

At first I had difficulty accepting anybody besides Bill Murray in the role. He has quirky charisma far apart from Andy Karl's more conventional good lucks. But I quickly realised Karl had made the role his own, avoiding direct comparisons between the two. With Karl perfectly equipped to play the role, his musical abilities added the scope to build movement and rhythm into the character, which would prove to be invaluable in later scenes.

Like the film, the show really picks up pace when the day starts repeating itself, with the structure allowing earlier music, choreography and dialog to repeat itself in innovative and humorous ways.

Tim Minchin's style breaks through the narrative when Phil Connors goes to the doctor for help with what seem to be delusions. Whilst this is a fleeting scene in the film, Minchin uses it as an opportunity to express some of his well-known contempt for alternative medicine, in a hilarious song starring a selection of 'health professionals'. Whilst the style-shift is quite noticeable, I liked the song so much I was more than happy for the digression.

My only major criticism of the original 1993 film was the portrayal of Nancy, a young, blonde lady that Connors tricks into bed. It's a pretty dire example of cinema depicting manipulating women as harmless fun. With Nancy being such an important symbol of the power Connors had gained by learning the (seemingly) inconsequential nature of his actions, the musical naturally included this subplot. However, I was delighted when Nancy later sang a post-interval solo about the shoddy nature of her superficial role as collateral damage and eye candy. I felt this modernised the piece and gave to sexism the reflection it deserved.

Nancy's solo wasn't the only knowing dig at the film - which seems entirely positive given that Danny Rubin wrote both the film and the musical's book. There's a joke about the age difference between Nancy and Phil when he pretends they were in the same year at school, and another referencing the slight continuity error that Phil can learn many skills (e.g. piano) as he repeats iterations of the same day, yet cannot seem to retain cardio fitness. A mention of Ghostbusters 2 gives a friendly not to Bill Murray.

For me, the absolute highlight of the play has to be the suicide scene. Disillusioned by the monotony of repetition, Phil Conners decides he's had enough drink and casual sex, and engages in a variety of varied suicide attempts. We wondered how they would manage to portray this on stage, so were thrilled when this turned out to be not just done well, but was actually one of the strongest moments. Illusions, a revolving set and, of course, a fantastic Tim Minchin song, are used to create a hilarious montage of perfectly choreographed, failed suicide attempts.

The magnificent set was largely created using elaborate props brought on by the actors. The timing and synchronicity made the changes slick and interesting, with a car chase being particular inspired.

Lighting played a key part in guiding the audience through the continual shift in mood - the perfect partner to the music.

The performances were spot on and I couldn't fault a single cast member.

If I was forced to find a negative, I'd say that I would have preferred it if one of the ensemble cast, who played an old lady, had been directed to sing in a voice that matched her character, as it jarred a little when she spoke in one voice and sung in another. Characters in Matilda sing in character all the time, and it really works. Also, the snow ball fight was a little minimalist compared with the hustle and bustle of almost every other scene.

I enjoyed Groundhog Day the Musical so much that I was in tears by the end; I knew I had watched the work of sheer genius. It's such a shame that it's only on for two months. I desperately hope it will come back to the West End or, better still, tour the UK. Thank you so much to everybody who was involved in making it happen.


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