Entertainment & Arts

Groundhog Day musical to have world premiere at Old Vic

Matthew Warchus Image copyright Manuel Harlan
Image caption Matilda director Matthew Warchus is the Old Vic's new artistic director, taking over from Kevin Spacey

A new stage musical of Groundhog Day is to have its world premiere at the Old Vic in London next year.

Based on the 1993 comedy film with Bill Murray, the show will be directed by the Old Vic's new boss Matthew Warchus.

Other plays in his inaugural season include Ibsen's The Master Builder, starring Ralph Fiennes, and Pinter's The Caretaker, with Timothy Spall.

Warchus is taking over from Kevin Spacey, the Old Vic's artistic director for 11 years.

He said his first season - which also includes a stage adaptation of Dr Seuss's The Lorax and a dance production of Jekyll and Hyde - reflected a "something for everyone" approach.

He aims to up the number productions per year through shorter runs, and hopes three or four will transfer to the West End or go direct to Broadway via a new partnership with big-name producers Scott Rudin and Sonia Friedman.

Groundhog Day reunites Warchus with three of the creative team behind the hit musical Matilda - composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling, and designer Rob Howell - who will work with the film's co-writer Danny Rubin.

It tells the story of grumpy TV weatherman Phil Connors who is sent to the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and gets stuck in a time loop, having to live the same day over and over again.

'Broadway classic'

In an interview with the BBC, Warchus described the show as "an intelligent mainstream Broadway classic" that was ideal for the Old Vic.

"It needs a large audience and a large stage, and I wanted to start it in this country, so it's the perfect match."

He added that the film had made him laugh and cry. "It is really about how little time you have to become the best version of yourself. It's sophisticated meaty stuff in a romantic comedy package."

It will premiere in June 2016 before going to Broadway.

The opening production of the new season in September is Future Conditional, by Tamsin Oglesby, a new play set in a school starring Rob Brydon as a teacher with a cast of 23 "young performers" as his class. Warchus will direct.

That will be followed in October by Eugene O'Neill's American drama The Hairy Ape, directed by Richard Jones.

Warchus will also direct The Master Builder, with Ralph Fiennes as architect Halvard Solness in a new adaptation by David Hare, and also Timothy Spall in Harold Pinter's 1960 classic The Caretaker.

Plans for future seasons include the first revival of Art by Yasmina Reza, a 50th anniversary production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, and a new musical based on the 2014 film Pride, about a group of gay and lesbian activists who supported striking miners in the 1980s, which Warchus directed.

Warchus is also introducing a new ticketing scheme, which will make half of all seats at the first five previews of each production available for £10.

"It's not just about young people," Warchus said. "We'll be trying to guide or nudge those tickets to people who are new theatre goers."

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