In Razzle Dazzle, Michael Riedel’s compelling book on theater history, he shares some unique insight into Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s 1965 flop On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. “Lerner wrote it while receiving daily injections of amphetamines from Max Jacobson, the infamous “Dr. Feelgood” whose patients included Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, Nelson Rockefeller, and John F. Kennedy.”
That revelation should come as no surprise to anyone with a sober mind. After all, this bizarre shows combines singing to plants with ESP and the reincarnation of an 18th-century woman in love with a painter. There’s nothing other than mind-altering substances to blame.
Director Charlotte Moore has adapted a new, scaled down version for a stylish new production at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Although there is much to admire in this new version, it remains a deeply problematic and kooky show.
Melissa Errico heads the 11 person cast as Daisy Gamble, a self-viewed lowly person who needs to quit smoking. She solicits the help of Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus) who hypnotizes her. When he does, she becomes Melinda Wells, an 18th Century lady. Eventually, Bruckner falls for “Melinda.”
Note to future creative teams on Broadway: Avoid drugs.
The glue that holds this show together is Lane’s beautifully lush score. In addition to the title song, it includes the ballad, “He Wasn’t You”, “Come Back to Me” and the show-stopper “What Did I Have That I Didn’t Have?”
Bogardus is perfect as psychiatrist Bruckner. He carries a natural likability and affable quality into nearly every role and is always a treat to watch on stage.
Tony nominee Errico seems a bit out of her element here. She doesn’t quite capture the insecurity of Gamble or Wells. Instead, she wears her self-assurance on her sleeve. Vocally, there is a thinness to her tone that often borders on strident.
Florrie Bagel, who blends into the ensemble for Act 1, is a true standout at the top of Act 2. Her solid, vintage jazz voice makes audiences take notice in “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows.”
Conductor Gary Adler guides Josh Clayton’s orchestrations with a gentle hand and his modest band breathes new life into this fantastic score. Ryan Belock’s projection design with watercolor cityscapes adds whimsical authenticity to this drug-induced hypno-show.
Theater historians will enjoy this fine production. In spite of its major flaws, it is generally well cast and a treat for the eyes. And who can resist some good old fashioned show tunes?
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever plays through September 6th at Irish Repertory Theatre 132 West 22nd between 6th and 7th Ave.) For tcikets and more information, call the box office at 212-727-2737 or go online: www.irishrep.org.