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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Music by Burton Lane; book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore
Performances through September 6, 2018
Stephen Bogardus and Melissa Errico in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (photo: Carol Rosegg)
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever has had a troubled history since its 1965 Broadway premiere. The convoluted musical about clairvoyance and reincarnation was only marginally successful in its initial run, garnering Tony nods for stars Barbara Harris and John Cullum; Vincente Minnelli’s infamous 1970 movie version, with Barbra Streisand, Yves Montand and Jack Nicholson (in a role expressly written for the film), came next, followed by the flop 2011 Broadway revival, for which Alan Jay Lerner’s book was so thoroughly re-written as to be completely—as opposed to mostly—nonsensical. (It also wasted Harry Connick Jr. and a newcomer named Jessie Mueller.)
Now there’s Charlotte Moore’s paring-down at the Irish Rep: a cast of four dozen is down to 11, and an orchestra of 31 is now a mere five. But problems remain, all still wedded to the material; it seems impossible to satisfyingly weld together the show’s parallel plots of contemporary New Yawker Daisy and her hypnosis by psychiatrist Mark, and Daisy’s possible previous life as an 18th century free spirit named Melinda, whom Marc falls for.
Maybe back in the swinging ‘60s, things like ESP and time-travel relationships would have had more currency (the whole show seems to have been conjured with the help of hallucinogenics), but today they just seem risible. Daisy is rightfully upset by Mark’s affection for a woman from the recesses of Daisy’s mind; but it’s Mark who declares in frustration (!): “What a masterpiece of perversity a woman is…Oh, God! Why did you not make women first, when you were fresh?”
Such sexism might be excused by the 50 years that separate us from when it was written, but infelicities are legion, and even Moore’s deft concision ends up hurting—Warren, Daisy’s boyfriend, has been dropped, which trims the running time and cuts a subplot but also sets Daisy further adrift, allowing Mark’s infatuation with Melinda to take center stage.
Melissa Errico is a delightful Daisy, with a shimmeringly lovely voice, but she unaccountably remains a cipher throughout what’s supposedly her own story. Stephen Bogardus makes a respectable Mark, but the two leads rarely connect intimately, which is fatal for a bizarre tale that’s already being told at some remove.
Moore resourcefully uses projected artworks on the back walls (projection design by Ryan Belock) to give a sense of Manhattan and London locales, and the small-ensemble arrangements give the songs a pleasant cabaret-style quality. But Lane’s songs, tuneful as they are, are not his best (only “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here” approaches being a standard), and coupled with Lerner’s serviceable but often pedestrian lyrics, the show is a mess of epic proportions, even when downsized and trimmed, sensibly but, ultimately, ineffectually.
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, New York, NY
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