We gave it a C
It must have been an overcast day when the team behind On a Clear Day You Can See Forever decided to revive this short-lived 1965 musical. Granted, the score boasts some delightful melodies, including the title track, by composer Burton Lane and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. But Lerner’s original book was widely dismissed as a mess involving a woman with ESP, reincarnation, and a hypnosis-practicing shrink who falls for his patient’s past life.
Director Michael Mayer and playwright Peter Parnell have reconceived the plot in a way that strains to be hip and contemporary but manages only to feel awkward and dated. Not to mention a major head-scratcher. Our hero is widowed psychiatrist Mark Bruckner, played with visible discomfort by Harry Connick Jr. He begins using hypnosis to treat the smoking habit of a soon-to-be 30-year-old gay florist named David (David Turner). Under hypnosis, though, David morphs into Melinda (Jessie Mueller), a 1940s jazz singer who awakens in Mark dormant romantic feelings. As David falls for Mark, Mark finds himself falling for Melinda and scheduling more appointments with David to spend time with his presumed past-life incarnation.
Confused? So is the production. It’s a narrative muddle that’s not really helped by the ”updated” 1970s setting. And the cast sometimes seems not just to be performing in different time periods, but in different theaters. Connick, usually an ebullient and expressive stage performer in shows like the 2006 revival of The Pajama Game, seems almost straight-jacketed in a fundamentally recessive role. (And no, it’s never clear if Mark is hallucinating when he attempts to kiss David while thinking he’s Melinda — even though the two look nothing like each other.) While Mueller has a vibrant soprano suited to the jazzy stylings of songs like ”Ev’ry Night at Seven” (a tune lifted from another Lane-Lerner show, Royal Wedding), the reedy quality of her voice doesn’t blend well with Connick’s in duets. And poor Turner comes off as a lightweight, bellbottomed drip as the third corner in this quasi-love triangle.
One of the few highlights of Joann M. Hunter’s otherwise forgettable choreography is a charming pas de trois to ”You’re All the World to Me” (another Royal Wedding refugee). As David inserts himself into Mark and Melinda’s dance, we witness a rare moment when the show’s unsettling and cockeyed premise actually pays off in theatrical terms. For much of the rest of the time, though, On a Clear Day feels like one very long therapy session. C-
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)