Melissa Errico (center) and the cast of ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
By April Stamm
Seeing the present, seeing the past, seeing what’s really inside a person: sight is at the very heart of Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Burton Lane’s (music) offbeat but sometimes endearing On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Originally produced on Broadway in 1965, it’s newly revived at the Irish Repertory Theatre —a production that attempts to find simplicity and clarity in an otherwise wacky and even preposterous script. It succeeds at some turns through sheer talent and conviction but gets cloudy at others.
Both rote and ridiculous at the same time, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever tells the story of Daisy Gamble (Melissa Errico), a young woman living in New York City in the mid-60s. Daisy longs for and works toward the regular things: a good job, love and to quit smoking. To that end, she goes to a group therapy/hypnosis session with a group of friends. Psychologist Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus) leads the session and is immediately taken by Daisy. It’s not her charm or wit that immediately captivate him, but the fact that she can be hypnotized with an ease he’s never seen before, has super powerful ESP, oh, and also can make flowers grow with her voice.
While investigating this peculiar botanical talent through hypnosis, he finds that even more fascinatingly Daisy lived a past life as Melinda Wells in 18th century England. Diving into her former life, Dr. Mark falls in love with her—well, Melinda really—while using Daisy’s “head for a motel” as she puts it.
Much like My Fair Lady (for which Lerner also wrote the book and lyrics), the smart, somewhat unfeeling academic falls in love with an idealized, self-created/envisioned version on the woman in front of him and then proceeds to be frustrated by his own feelings. After the good doctor’s intentions are blown, Daisy somewhat inexplicable attempts to flee the state, there is an emotional and bizarre airport scene, and the two find themselves together in the end.
I could go on about the troubles in this show as written and its trite and misogynistic love story set to the tune of strange and incongruous past lives and ESP. There is no attempt to draw any characters other than the lead couple in any substantial way or even create any sort of relationships other than the primary love interest. Lyrics are forgettable at best and downright silly at their worst. However, the music is lovely. You will absolutely leave the theatre with the title song ringing delightfully in your ear and the second act opener “Who is there Among us Who Knows” is a show stopper (more in feel and music than lyrically) sung in this production with panache by Florrie Bagel. It does desperately beg the question, why this show? A 2011 Broadway revival starring Harry Connick Jr. rewrote the script entirely and gave it a go (to not much success—it lasted 57 performances) but the intention to make this endearing music work makes complete sense.
The performances in this production are truly worth watching, however. Errico’s Daisy/Melinda is dear and honest without feeling dumb or vacant. John Cudia as Edward Moncrief, Melinda’s sexy, yet fallible, artist love pulls what he can from a scantily written part and exudes frustrating appeal. Bogardus as Dr. Mark Bruckner sings the role with strength and skill, however, doesn’t quite get us to believe that he is someone Daisy would fall as hard for as she does. The rest of the ensemble sings beautifully and exudes an eye-catching stage presence in spite of a script that offers them little to play with.
Smartly, especially in the space given, the design is simple. Costumes (Whitney Locher) speak well to the two distinct time periods. Scenic design (James Morgan) is simple, using realistic set pieces and props framed with a more ethereal backdrop using projections and sound.
Seeing who you are and who you love truly is, what I think, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is trying to get at. Expert performances and pretty music give us a glimpse, but unfortunately, our sights get lost in the fog of the details.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street, NYC
Through August 12
April Stamm is a theater, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to The Broadway Blog and EDGE Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center. Follow her on Instagram at @aprilstamm.