In his October 1965 review of the original production of this musical, Howard Taubman admired “bright, charming songs that have …melodic grace and inventive distinction”and star Barbara Harris’ “brash willfulness…freshness and versatility.” He criticized the book and the show’s lack of cohesiveness. Clearly, however, its tale of ESP, reincarnation and romance across centuries hit a popular chord as the show was filmed in 1970 and has seen multiple New York revivals. I, for one, think there’s charm to be mined.
In brief, quirky, insecure Daisy Gamble (Melissa Errico) who has ESP and makes flowers grow inordinately fast by talking to them, needs to stop smoking so that her straight-laced fiancé Warren can secure a great job. (The heroine had a trust fund.) Adapter/Director Charlotte Moore has eliminated Warren in favor of Daisy herself needing employment at what we know not. An interview scene is weak.
Stephen Bogardus and Melissa Errico
Friends recommend hypnotism and take her to a group helmed by Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus). While at the back of the room, she falls into a trance meant for someone else. When Daisy asks the doctor if he can help with smoking, he agrees, assuming a quick fix while intrigued by her suggestibility.
During hypnosis, Daisy inadvertently regresses to the late 18th Century and her former self, the poised and elegant Melinda Wells. Mark is sure he’s being duped and continues recording their sessions to catch her out. He’s increasingly drawn to Melinda as, in dramatized scenes, she falls in love and marries painter Edward Montcrief (John Cudia) who proves a womanizing bounder. The psychiatrist pays his subject a great deal of personal attention. She falls for him.
John Cudia and Melissa Errico
Moore has characters from then acknowledging Mark’s current presence and shows him trying to save Melinda from the accident that will kill her-as if breaching time. There’s even an ouch quip about American Express, clearly not in the original. All this dispenses with a barrier necessary to theme and coherence. We also see little of the skepticism and resistance that originally added frisson to the doctor’s growing feelings.
Through a leak, a ridiculing story headlines newspapers – without the subject’s name. (A Greek shipping magnate who wants to leave himself future money is understandably dropped from the abbreviated version.) When she accidentally sets the recorder going, Daisy discovers she’s the patient, assumes Mark has been using her, and attempts to get away. Yes, there’s a happy ending.
While I understand the need to reduce its cast from 47 to 11 and the orchestra to 5 from 41, most cuts and changes here don’t serve the story. Any successful iteration needs to be light handed and somewhat magical. This is not. We have little but the music and moments to sustain.
Melissa Errico and the Cast
Though Melissa Errico has a lovely voice, her comes-and-goes, ersatz New Yawk accent is dreadful. Nor has she any instinct for comedy. The actress thus shines as Melinda and pales as Daisy. Axis of the musical thus fails to keep it spinning.
Male leads fare better. Stephen Bogardus is the best, most credible thing onstage with romance novel cover John Cudia a close second, despite some cliché tendencies.
The physical sizes, shapes, colors and sexes of the cast are so obviously an attempt at diversification, they disconcert. Most overact and under-sing. (Rachel Coloff has one bright moment as Melinda’s mother.) Barry McNabb’s Choreography is congested.
James Morgan’s usually deft Sets (here projected paintings) are muddy. On stage décor is nonexistent. How expensive can a rooftop of fake flowers be – or at least more than a single pot?! Even having a plant shoot up would be easy to achieve. This production desperately needs color. (A pencil holder Bruckner empties so that Daisy can show him how she sings to her plants later grows leaves?!)
Whitney Lochner’s Costumes are washed out and unflattering. The exception – one company member dressed in tomato red – is inappropriate and distracting, drawing our eyes each and every time she’s onstage in a group number. Daisy’s Pepto-Bismol pink dress does the actress no favors. Eighteenth century apparel is fine, though Daisy’s carrying Melinda’s hat onstage to a session is a big gaff. Surely there are endless ways to get it where it needs to be so transition is fluid. (Nor does it help that every other time she slips a gown over her dress.)
Sound Design by M. Florian Staab finds Errico’s dialogue often too soft and the band often too loud.
Also featuring: Florrie Bagel, William Bellamy, Peyton Crim, Caitlin Gallogly, Matt Gibson, Daisy Hobbs, Craig Waletzko
The venerable Irish Repertory Theatre has mounted and Charlotte Moore (among others) has Directed innumerable worthy productions. Songs are not enough. What happened?
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Melissa Errico and Stephen Bogardus; John Cudia and Melissa Errico
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Music by Burton Lane
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Adapted and Directed by Charlotte Moore
Music Director- John Bell
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Through August 12, 2018