This much maligned musical with its gorgeous score is being seen in yet a fifth version: the 1965 world premiere had an original script by Lerner while the film version had yet another take on the story by Lerner himself. The 2000 New York City Center Encores! version was adapted by David Ives, the 2011 revival had a new book by Peter Parnell, and the current version has been adapted from the original by director Charlotte Moore. Melissa Errico plays the role of the irrepressible Daisy Gamble who has previously been played by Barbara Harris, Barbra Streisand, Kristin Chenoweth and Jessie Mueller. She is paired with Stephen Bogardus as psychiatrist Dr. Mark Bruckner, following in the steps of John Cullum, Yves Montand, Peter Friedman and Harry Connick, Jr.
The plot still remains pretty much the same: desperate to stop smoking, kooky Daisy Gamble, who can make flowers grow quickly, hear phones before they ring, and locate objects that people have lost, attends a class in hypnosis led by Dr. Bruckner hoping he will take her on as an addiction patient. Once at his clinic, she turns out to be a natural and is put under while he is dealing with another patient. After the session she stays on see if he can cure her, and when he tries to regress her to find out when her gifts started, an 18th century personality (the free spirited Melinda Wells) emerges.
He learns that she married an unfaithful but dashing portrait painter Sir Edward Moncrief and when she runs away to America on the S.S. Trelawny, her story stops. Falling in love with Melinda, Mark starts spending more and more time with Daisy trying to get the rest of Melinda’s story: does it prove reincarnation is true? When Mark delivers his report to the Board of Trustees of his clinic, all hell breaks loose and Daisy accidentally discovers that she is the subject of his investigations. Daisy refuses to see Mark anymore but events conspire to bring them together.
Charlotte Moore’s version streamlines the plot somewhat from Lerner’s original by eliminating Daisy’s fiancé for whom she wants to quit smoking as well as a subplot with Greek shipping magnate Themistocles Kriakos who wishes to fund a study to prove that reincarnation is real. Mark’s brother Dr. Paul Bruckner becomes his colleague Dr Conrad Fuller in this latest version, and the clinic is no longer a family business. The songs, “Tosy and Cosh” and “Don’t Tamper with My Sister,” have been cut, shortening the 18th century story, and two songs added from the National Tour subsequent to the original Broadway run: “Solicitor’s Song” and Daisy’s “He Wasn’t You,” a female version of Edward’s later “She Wasn’t You.” Finally, “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows” (written for the film version but left on the cutting room floor) opens the second act instead of Kriakos’ “When I’m Being Born Again.”
If you don’t know the show, you are in for a memorable musical treat. The Tony nominated score by Lerner and Lane (who had previously collaborated on the film Royal Wedding) alternates between lush songs such as “She Wasn’t You,” “Melinda,” “Come Back to Me,” and the famous title song, and witty, patter numbers such as “Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here,”“S.S. Bernard Cohn,” “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” and “Wait til We’re Sixty–Five.” However, although the score is still remarkable in the hands of the reduced cast of 11 down from the original 20 speaking roles, some of the choices are rather problematic if you know any of the previous versions. Mark Bruckner has usually been sung by a baritone and the light, reduced orchestrations do not allow Errico to soar with the music.
Moore’s direction is smooth and graceful but the cast does not entirely seem to have grown comfortable with their roles as of yet. While Errico does not seem to have aged a day since we first noticed her as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady back in 1993, both she and Bogardus as Dr. Bruckner seem a bit old to be playing unmarried characters. Errico seems to be trying a bit too hard to play the kooky side to Dairy using a rather extreme New York inflection, but seems more comfortable with the 18th century Melinda. Though successful as the detached scientist, Bogardus fails to exude charisma as the doctor all the women are crazy about. On the other hand, John Cudia as the wild Edward Moncrief is quite dashing. Playing both the doctor’s secretary and Melinda’s mother back in the 18th century, Rachel Coloff brings a needed bit of humor to the mainly serious plot. As Daisy’s friends back at her residence for women, Daisy Hobbs, Florrie Bagel and Caitlin Gallogly make their roles all their own and quite different. Craig Waletzko brings a sense of tradition and conservativism to his role as Mark’s colleague, Dr. Conrad Fuller.
The look of the show has been strangely stylized with James Morgan’s painted watercolor projections for New York, circa 1965, and London, circa, 1794. On the other hand, the sets are aided by Mary Jo Dondlinger’s subtle lighting design. Whitney Locher’s color-coordinated costumes for the two time periods are most effective. Josh Clayton’s new orchestrations seem to emphasize the harp, clarinet and cello under John Bell’s music direction. The sound design by M. Florian Staab remains unobtrusive. Barry McNabb’s two dance numbers are both rousing and animated to bouncy music by Burton Lane.
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever remains a curiosity due to its unusual subject matter but a cult show as a result of its opulent and brilliant score, the kind they don’t write anymore. With Lerner’s witty, surprising lyrics and Lane’s lush music, this an aural treat. On A Clear Day’s quirky and unconventional heroine will continue to bewitch those who allow themselves to come under her spell. While the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival is not definitive, it is a pleasure to see the show in a relatively close rendition to the original show with some needed improvements.
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (extended through September 6, 2018)
Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 W. 22nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-727-2737 or visit http://www.irishrep.org
Running time: two hours and ten minutes including one intermission