|ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER|
What will you see if you go to the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival – or should I say –revisal of Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s 1965 Broadway musical “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”? First, here’s what you won’t see (or hear): a drastically rejigerred story a la the ill-fated 2011 Broadway production (starring Harry Connick Jr. and Jessie Mueller), the lush scenery of Vincente Minnelli’s oft-maligned film (starring a radiant Barbra Streisand), a few of the score’s lesser-known numbers (such as “Cozy and Tosh”) and much of Lerner’s overwritten and fairly ridiculous book. Admittedly, musical theater purists may have objections to adapter/director Charlotte Moore’s approach, but for most people, these decisions prove to be good ones.
Especially when you consider what’s left: First and foremost: a group of gorgeous songs, gorgeously sung by Mellissa Errico, Stephen Bogardus, John Cudia and company. Just as importantly, Moore has retained the heart of Lerner’s story about the convoluted relationship between eccentric Daisy Gamble (Errico) – who can make flowers grow by talking to them, hear telephones before they ring, and exhibits other signs of ESP -- and psychiatrist Marc Bruckner (Bogardus).
Their relationship mixes the professional and personal. Marc, who is supposedly hypnotizing Daisy in order to help her stop smoking, initially finds himself in love with Gamble’s 17th-century “past life” version, the sophisticated Englishwoman Melinda Welles -- a fact that enrages Daisy when she discovers it. But ultimately, Marc realizes (no big surprise) that it’s the 20th-century, fully alive Daisy he really wants.
The seemingly ageless Errico, adapting a slightly over-pronounced New Yawk accent, shows off a comic flair that few of her previous roles have allowed her to exhibit, while still capturing Daisy’s innate vulnerability and lack of self-confidence. Her well-known soprano is also rarely in evidence, as she sings confidently and robustly in a lower range on the deliciously clever “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here,” “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” and “The S.S. Bernard Cohn.”
As the men in her life, Bogardus could be just a tad starchier, but there’s no quibbling with his glorious renditions of the dreamy “Melinda,” the powerful (and tongue-twisting) “Come Back to Me,” and the ravishing title tune. As Melinda’s womanizing husband, Edward Moncrief, Cudia does exactly what he needs to: look properly louche and brilliantly perform the show’s most romantic and booming ballad “She Isn’t You.” (Errico does get her own version of the song, which is another of Moore’s changes from the original.)
Conversely, Moore works a bit too hard to make use of the eight-person ensemble, who double as Daisy’s friends and Melinda’s family. They are a talented group of actors with great voices, but I think it’s a mistake to have them start the show by singing “On a Clear Day” (on the stairs leading to the balcony). Moreover, not much is really added by giving them as a second-act opener, the so-so “Who There Among Us Who Knows” (a number Lerner wrote for Jack Nicholson as Daisy’s stepbrother Tad in the film, but which was removed before the movie was released). And while I enjoyed watching them do “Wait Til We’re Sixty-Five” (complete with some nifty choreography by Barry McNabb), I think that number made a bit more sense when it was just a duet for Daisy and her uptight boyfriend Warren (one of the roles Moore cut from this version).
Honestly, however, I don’t think even a truly great version of “On a Clear Day” would reclaim it as a true gem. The show has always been a bit of a diamond in the rough, and this version has more than enough sparkle to warrant a visit.
By Brian Scott Lipton
Visit the Site
Stephen Bogardus, John Cudia, Melissa Errico, Florrie Bagel, Rachel Coloff, Caitlin Gallogly, Daisy Hobbs, Craig Waletzko, William Bellamy, Peyton Crim, Matt Gibson
Irish Repetory Theatre
132 West 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011