In the seven years since graduating from NYU, Gallatin alum Barrett Doss landed a role alongside Kate Hudson in the upcoming biographical drama “Marshall,” starred in the Marvel series “Iron Fist” and is now the leading lady in the new musical “Groundhog Day.”
Based on the beloved 1993 Bill Murray film, the show closely follows the original plot. Jaded weatherman Phil Connors (Andy Karl) travels to the small town of Punxsutawney to cover its famed annual Groundhog Day event. He finds himself caught in a time loop, forced to relive February 2 over and over again, until he re-examines his arrogant and sardonic habits and decides to pursue a real relationship with hardworking producer Rita Hanson (Doss). The show is unlikely to approach the cultural significance of its source, and is essentially a pleasant adaptation.
Tim Minchin’s score spans a variety of American sounds from bluegrass to rock, but fails to be anything but generic. Phil realises his love for Rita during “Everything About You,” a song that gets the message across but doesn’t go far with its attempt at vulnerability. “Nobody Cares” is more successful, as Phil sits at a bar with a group of drunks who provide beautiful harmonies and lyrical punches like, “Just swallow it / your opinions or your vomit / either way they don’t want it.”
”Stuck” is another comical success, during which a litany of doctors take turns to fix what’s wrong with Phil. Yet nothing compares to “Hope,” which gives “The Book of Mormon” a run for its money in offensiveness. Karl is hilarious in his exasperated suicide attempts as he chews electrical cords and throws a toaster into his bathtub, all accompanied by dripping red walls and heavy rock. The hedonistic lifestyle he embraces is equally entertaining as he waltzes into a diner post-orgy clad in boxers and a fur coat.
As vulgar as the show gets, it only becomes uncomfortable during Phil’s almost predatory pursuit of Rita. The idea that he can do anything to her and it will be erased the next day brings an off-putting undertone to their eventual romance. Phil’s change of heart during “Night Will Come” is mediocre in both performance and writing. It leaves the show lacking in emotional depth and coherence.
Doss showed off her incredible belt and emotional delivery in “If I Had My Time Again,” which was only undermined by an imbalance in the sound design. Another shortfall was the projected screen that served as the firework-splattered Punxsutawney sky. Compared to the incredible screens used in “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Anastasia,” the quality of the projections was neither realistic nor visually pleasing.
Seeing the show on the night that Karl suffered a major injury onstage proved an intriguing experience. A 15-minute break ensued after Karl fell during his leapfrog jump over another actor, after which he limped back onstage with the support of a cane. This made him even more endearing as the changed Phil, poking fun at his costars: “Why so slow, break a leg or something?” Combined with his talent, Karl’s resilience and humor truly cemented his performance as unforgettable.
“Groundhog Day” continues its run at the August Wilson Theater at 245 W. 52nd St.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 1 print edition.
Email Kamila Daurenova at [email protected]