'Groundhog Day' musical set for premiere in Matthew Warchus' first season at London's Old Vic



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LONDON — A stage musical based on the time-looping movie "Groundhog Day" is to have its world-premiere production at London's Old Vic Theatre. Day after day after day.

The show, part of artistic director Matthew Warchus' first season in charge, will open next year and move to Broadway in 2017.

Based on the much-loved 1993 film in which Bill Murray's cranky weatherman has to live through the spring-predicting calendar date over and over, the show features music and lyrics by comedian Tim Minchin and direction by Warchus. The pair also worked on Tony Award-winner "Matilda the Musical."

Warchus, who is taking over the Old Vic from Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, said it's "a show full of intellect, integrity and wit, insight, humor — and of course romance."

Warchus promises further works of "brainy entertainment" in the 2015-16 season of eight shows, four of which he will direct.

"I'd like to find the point at which artistic things can be very popular and popular things can be very artistic," he said. "That's naturally where I live."

The season opens in September with "Future Conditional," a play about Britain's education system by Tamsin Oglesby, starring comedian Rob Brydon and 23 young performers.

Later productions include a revival of Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape" directed by Richard Jones, and a Christmas show based on Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax." There will be big-name stars including Ralph Fiennes — in Henrik Ibsen's brooding Scandinavian classic "The Master Builder" — and Timothy Spall, in Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker."

There's also a "dance thriller" version of "Jekyll and Hyde" by choreographer Drew McOnie, and Sunday-night variety shows inspired by the theater's history as a vaudeville venue.

Future seasons are set to include a revival of Yasmina Reza's 1990s hit "Art," a 50th-anniversary production of Tom Stoppard's brain-teasing "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" and a musical adaptation of "Pride," the Warchus-directed film about an alliance between gay activists and striking Welsh coal miners in the 1980s.

Warchus plans for some productions to transfer to other West End theaters and Broadway, through a partnership with commercial producers Scott Rudin and Sonia Friedman.

Warchus, whose directing credits in London and New York include the musical "Ghost" and Alan Ayckbourn's "The Norman Conquests," has big shoes to fill at the Old Vic. Spacey has been credited with restoring the fortunes of the 200-year-old venue, which struggled financially and was threatened with closure before he took over in 2004.

Warchus, who has never run a major venue, does not seem unduly worried.

"Last night there was a gala for Kevin leaving, and a couple of people said to me, 'It must be hard following in his footsteps,'" Warchus said Monday. "And I was laughing, because there was a time when people said, 'Surely a Hollywood actor can't run a theater?' And now it's like, 'Are you sure you can run a theater, because you're not a Hollywood actor."

Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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