ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER
St. James Theatre
Starring: Harry Connick Jr., David Turner, Jessie Mueller
Directed by: Michael Mayer
Broadway has always had revivals of well-received shows but it has rarely had reinventions of shows that flopped. “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” started its run in 1965 and quietly closed a year later. The show starred John Collum and Barbara Harris and its offbeat story of a divorced psychiatrist who becomes enthralled with his patient who under hypnosis becomes an 18th century aristocrat named Melinda Twelvetrees was a bit too far-fetched for critics and theatergoers at the time.
The show, conceived by the songwriting team of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, featured a toe-tapping score that included “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have,” “Come Back To Me,” and of course, the title track. The richness of the score attracted Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand to star in the 1970 film version. The flick seemed a bit dated for the start of the “Me Decade” but its cast that featured Bob Newhart and Jack Nicholson, and magnificent use of New York City as a backdrop, got the film better reviews and better box office results than its stage predecessor.
Director Michael Mayer and playwright Peter Parnell have decided to shake the dust off “On A Clear Day” by changing its storyline and focus. The timeline has shifted from 1965 to 1974. Melinda Twelvetrees is now Melinda Wells (Jessie Mueller), a World War II-era big band singer. Daisy Gamble is now David Gamble (David Turner), a commitment-phobe slacker who is approaching his 30th birthday and who happens to be gay. The biggest change however, is that psychiatric professor Mark Brucker (Harry Connick, Jr.) is the central character in the play.
Dr. Brucker is no longer separated from his wife but is now a 42 year-old widower who has not stopped grieving for his wife who passed away three years ago. He rejects all efforts to date despite best efforts of his secretary, Mrs. Hatch (played by Fresh Meadows native and Francis Lewis High School alum Lori Wilner), and a colleague, Dr. Sharone Stein (Kerry O’Malley). He passes the time teaching a course on Freud at a New York college. He is giving a lecture on hypnosis when David, a friend and roommate of a student in his class, Muriel (Sarah Stiles), who decided to tag along, falls asleep and starts acting on his post-hypnotic suggestions.
Although he is not in the habit of seeing private patients, he agrees to use hypnosis to help David kick his five pack-a-day cigarette habit. During his sessions, he comes to the conclusion that David was Melinda in a previous life and becomes enamored with her. Obviously this leads to numerous complications including a tango on stage that features three people.
David Turner and Jessie Mueller have terrific, almost operatic voices, but their talents make Harry Connick, Jr.’s vocal shortcomings all the more glaring. Connick’s singing voice is practically identical to that of Michael Buble. Their relaxed, slightly nasal, tenor works fine on records but is ineffective on the big Broadway stage, particularly on show stopping tunes as “Come Back To Me” and “On A Clear Day.”
Connick has worked hard on his acting and he is more than adequate as Mark Brucker. Unfortunately he can’t hold a candle to Yves Montand’s world-weary, urbane take on the role.
Although the show is set in 1974, there is a 2012 sensibility to many parts of the show. Warren and David discuss the idea of marriage, which was unheard of for homosexuals in the Watergate era.
Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner was a big fan of a certain baseball team in Flushing. When Harry Connick, Jr. sings “Don’t get lost in Korvettes or get signed by the Mets,” his duet partner, Drew Gehling screams out, “Dear God, not the Mets!” Fred Wilpon’s team can’t even catch a break on Broadway.
Despite some flaws, “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” is an old-time big Broadway musical that should leave you satisfied.