On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
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Theater review by Raven Snook
Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever debuted on Broadway in 1965 with gorgeous songs and a star-making performance by Barbara Harris—but with a book as unwieldy as its title. Ever since, writers have been trying to fix its ridiculous story about a pompous psychiatrist who falls for the past-life version of a patient who has psychic powers. The 1970 Barbra Streisand movie jettisoned many of the stage numbers and completely changed its heroine’s backstory. A misguided 2011 revival, which marked Jessie Mueller’s Broadway debut, turned the patient into a gay man who had been a female jazz singer in the ’40s. For the show’s latest iteration, Irish Rep artistic director Charlotte Moore has excised entire characters and subplots to deliver less speaking and more singing. If the narrative makes even less sense now, so be it; the score is what makes the show bloom.
Desperate to stop smoking in order to land a job, neurotic Daisy (Melissa Errico) asks Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus) to hypnotize her out of the habit. While under his spell, she reveals herself to be the reincarnation of Melinda Welles, an alluring, sexually liberated Englishwoman who died tragically in the 1700s. Soon, the shrink has the hots for Melinda, but Daisy thinks the doctor digs her. It’s a love triangle with two sides and no point, and his manipulation of her is creepy. But the songs, at least, are worthy of resurrection: In addition to the well-known title tune, the show includes Daisy’s catchy plea to her plants, “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here”; the haunting love ballads “Melinda” and “She Wasn’t You”; Daisy’s showstopper, “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?”; and Bruckner’s 11-o’clock number, “Come Back to Me.” They’re all beautifully delivered by Errico, Bogardus and the small but big-voiced ensemble, whose energy and enthusiasm compensate for the barely there design and pared-down orchestrations. Errico’s performance initially seems strained—she is not a natural comedian like her predecessors—but she’s wonderful as Melinda, and her Daisy gains strength as the character becomes more empowered. And while Bogardus begins as too docile, the actor’s innate charm wins you over. For lovers of rarely seen Broadway relics, this revival may do the same.
Irish Repertory Theatre (Off Broadway). Music by Burton Lane. Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Dir. Charlotte Moore. With Stephen Bogardus, Melissa Errico. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.