Monday, January 16, 2012

On A Clear Day: What Went Wrong

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever will close on January 29, after 29 previews and 57 regular performances. The show opened at the St. James Theatre on December 11 to negative reviews. Having seen the show in previews, I wasn't surprised by the response, but over the summer, I was expecting it to be a highlight of the Broadway season. As a member of the Vineyard last season, I had the opportunity to see the promising lab production. But while I still loved a lot of the individual elements on Broadway, as a whole, the production just didn't work. So what changed? Basically, the lab worked because it felt more like a concert. The score (music by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner) is absolutely gorgeous, but once the show was fully staged, it kind of fell apart.

The show now takes place in the '70s instead of the '60s (the original opened on Broadway in 1965). In the revised story (Peter Parnell updated Alan Jay Lerner's book), Dr. Mark Bruckner (Harry Connick, Jr.) uses hypnosis to get David Gamble (David Turner) to quit smoking. While David is hypnotized, he starts speaking as his former self from a past life--female jazz singer Melinda Wells (star-to-be Jessie Mueller). The story is a still a bit muddled owing partly to the fact that David and Melinda are played by two separate people. When watching the lab production, I guess I figured that director Michael Mayer would somehow brilliantly solve all the issues, but the staging was clunky, and I think a lot of that had to do with the set. Mayer's creative team has done wonderful work by him in the past in shows like American Idiot and Spring Awakening, but here, they miss the mark, especially Christine Jones's optical illusion eyesore of a set (see photo), in which pieces of furniture would come on and off in the center of the stage, not allowing for much in the way of inventive staging.

In the workshop, Dr. Bruckner was played by Marc Kudisch, who seemed more comfortable in the role. Still, Connick sings like a dream and so does Mueller. Turner is delightful. I may have wanted more from On A Clear Day, but I appreciate that it was trying to push the envelope and would have liked to see it hold on a little longer. I hope it at least gets a cast recording so the best part of the show can be preserved.

Photo credit: Paul Kolnik

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