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Groundhog Day at The Old Vic

A musical of such excellence and joy imbued with the very best in talent that any London stage can surely offer right now the Old Vic has just given birth to a sensation. Hot ticket doesn't come into it.

What's more, spoiler alerts hardly apply because the much celebrated movie is so well known. It is pretty obvious that the audience's plot knowledge allows them to relax more and get into this new Matthew Warchus offering with utter relish.

Andy Karl is not Bill Murray but that is one of Karl's greatest strengths. His version of weatherman Phil Connors' excruciating dilemma is different, clever, thoughtful and perplexed -all at once. Karl's comic touch and sheer versatility means that there is only one direction for this brilliant performer who must already be a hot candidate for the best actor in a musical award.

Backed up by a consistently faultless company, Karl makes us think: what if? Image being stuck in today forever. Nothing changes. Just today?

But, wait a minute, that familiar routine the commute, the trip to school with the kids, the daily grind at work aren't we just as much a victim of time passing us by and being able to do absolutely nothing about it? We are kind of stuck Groundhog Day or not?

Philosophically, the musical is helped by the clever visuals including retro, anti-digital images which delight the audience. Remember the police chase, when (not if!) you see this show and you will see what I mean.

I was trying to imagine which of the new songs Elaine Page would use on her Sunday night 'musical' show on BBC Radio 2 ? There are several candidates to the point that I will download the score and listen again because some of the numbers are truly brilliant.

The set, by Robert Howell, is similarly absolutely perfect. There is surprising little dancing for such a zany production but one number alone raises the pulse (tap!) and is a highlight of the whole show.

It's hard to find anything remotely bad to say about one of the Old Vic's greatest triumphs for some time. But I suppose the ending is a little anticlimactical and could have come ten minutes sooner- but, yes, that is splitting hairs.

This cheery, animated, proficient, profound and vigorous production is a musical for the 21st century which will run and run in the West End and surely on Broadway. Tim Minchin (music and lyrics of Matilda fame) has another stage blockbuster on his hands and Matthew Warchus must be over the moon.

Until Saturday 17 September

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