Wednesday, December 21, 2011

theatre review ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, Broadway, December 15

The Broadway revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is an updated version of the original 1965 production.  That original version told the story of a psychiatrist with a female patient, Daisy, who wanted to be hypnotized to stop smoking, but while under hypnosis she exhibits having lived a former life.  That life, lived by a lady named Melinda and set many years ago, is a more glamorous one and the psychiatrist finds himself falling in love with Melinda.

For the revival, which is directed by Michael Mayer and has a new book by Peter Parnell, the story, while similar to the original has been revised and updated and is now set in 1974.   Harry Connick Jr. stars as the recently widowed Dr. Mark Bruckner, but "Daisy" is now "David" a gay flower shop assistant who is not only having trouble to stop smoking but also in committing to his boyfriend Warren.  While David is under hypnosis his former life comes roaring out in the form of Melinda Wells, a big band singer from the 40's.  Dr. Bruckner is mesmerized by Melinda and schedules almost daily sessions with David in order to see Melinda more, as he finds himself connecting with her like he hasn't been able to connect with any of the other women he has dated since his wife died.  David starts to think that Mark is falling for him due to all of the meetings he wants to have with him which impacts even more on his relationship with his boyfriend.  It is the ultimate in love triangles where there is basically no resolution possible for any of them.

Harry Connick, Jr.
I enjoyed this twist on the original story and even though the show is set almost 40 years ago, it has a nice modern sensibility.  The cast includes Jessie Mueller as Melinda and David Turner as David Gamble and they are both perfect in their parts.  Mueller is making her Broadway debut and I can only expect many more starring roles in her future.  By splitting the original part of Daisy and Melinda across two actors it does give both of them less to do, and since the story is now focused more on the part of Dr. Bruckner, that part now takes center stage, but I was fine with this change from the original.  Fortunately Connick is up to the challenge of leading the charge and he is on stage for the majority of the show.  He is slightly stiff in the part, though that might just be how he is being directed as a somewhat unemotional psychiatrist, as he wasn't like this when he was in the Broadway revival of Pajama Game.  But he does have fun with the role and sings the score in his trademark style, and pretty much wins the audience over right from the beginning.

David Turner, Jessie Mueller and Harry Connick, Jr.
The score by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner features several well known songs and for this revised version they've also incorporated several songs from their score to the film Royal Wedding which are perfect for the 1940's jazz set scenes.   A couple of songs from the film version of On a Clear Day have also been included.  I especially liked how the song "Open Your Eyes" from Royal Wedding was seamlessly incorporated into the previously solo song "Melinda" to become a beautiful act one finale for all three leads.

Now since the show is set in 1974 it means the set and costumes are in that post hippie, pre disco era where, when looking back at that time now, everything just seems wrong.  So be prepared for plenty of loud costumes and geometrically designed sets.  The production is swiftly directed by Mayer and includes nicely staged scenes including some fun moments when all three lead actors are on stage together, including the number "You're All The World To Me" which features an interesting bit of choreography by Joann M. Hunter where all three leads are dancing together.

David Turner and Drew Gehling
The cast also features Kerry O'Malley as Brucker's co-worker who is in love with him, Drew Gehling as Warren, David's boyfriend and Sarah Stiles as David's best friend.   Gehling has some very nice moments including playing and singing a guitar driven solo of "Love With All the Trimmings," one of the songs which was added in from the movie score.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever isn't the greatest show, but it is a fun night at the theatre, and with three great actors in the leads, a humorous, modern book, a nice supporting cast and a fine score I definitely recommend this production.

Official Show Site

Harry and Jessie sing a medley of songs on The View:

Opening Night footage including some clips from the show:

The Original Broadway Cast performs selections from the show on The Bell Telephone Hour:

Barbra Streisand sings "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?" from the movie adaptation of the show:

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