On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
July 15, 2018
On a Clear Day Listen to the Music
The nicely slimmed-down production of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever at Irish Rep is a tidy delight. The show has been revived numerous times since originally opening in the fall of 1965; along the way it has lost several songs (with good reason—they were terrible) and had several interpretations including one by The Vineyard Theater at Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater that changed the female lead to a gay male. Other versions have added or subtracted characters who weren’t central to what has to be called the “story line.”
This version is fun with a winning performance by Melissa Errico playing Daisy Gamble, a 1960s girl with a smoking habit she wants to kick, and Melissa Welles, the 18th century woman she summons up when hypnotized. She visits a psychiatrist to give up cigarettes and be able to land a job although what she wants to do isn’t clear as we don’t have the slightest idea of what kind of work she does. Stephen Bogardus is Dr. Mark Bruckner, the psychiatrist who unleashes Daisy’s other life. He’s a little old for the role and rather sexless but throws himself into the part with a lot of energy and an agreeable voice. Errico has great appeal—it’s not her fault that the role originated with Barbara Harris who made it her own. John Cudia plays Edward Moncrief, Melinda’s husband in the flashback sequences; he looks great in 18th century garb and sings well.
Credit to Charlotte Moore who adapted and directed the work helping Ms. Errico’s Daisy update her role a bit so she’s not quite the passive pussycat as in the original. We’re stuck with a male shrink who pursues a female patient but it’s easy to get past this especially given as nothing makes real sense.
The supporting cast is delightful beginning with their rendition of On a Clear Day sung from the balcony and continuing with a few dance numbers on the Irish Rep’s small stage. The original, full-scale orchestra has been reduced to a very capable five musicians conducted by Gary Adler; Josh Clayton did the orchestrations. Also worth noting is the scenic design by James Morgan whose beguiling watercolor backdrops stand in for a set.
The music by Burton Lane and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner is what makes this show worth seeing. The score is lush and lovely with plenty of songs worth remembering including Hurry It’s Lovely Up Here, sung to a flower pot, and What Did I Have That I Don’t Have, covered over the years by everyone from Barbara Streisand, who starred in the 1970 film adaptation, to Eydie Gormé that remains, for me, the gold standard.
The only problem is the book which has always been a problem. It’s a crazy jumble of ideas centering around hypnotic regression á la Bridey Murphy (a 19th century Irishwoman whom an American housewife claimed to have been in a past life). It didn’t make sense when the show was first produced and it doesn’t now. The best thing to do is ignore it and lose yourself in the music. Happily, this is easy to do.