By: Paulanne Simmons
July 12, 2018: Unlike most of the shows produced at the Irish Repertory Theatre, Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever does not have an Irish connection. That is, unless you think its magical story of a woman with ESP and the ability to get in touch with a previous incarnation resembles other whimsical musicals such as the very Gaelic Finian’s Rainbow (music also by Lane) and Brigadoon (book and lyrics by Lerner).
But Charlotte Moore, artistic director of the Irish Rep, must have been prompted by a special affection for this odd little piece of theater. She has certainly directed it with a good deal of loving care.
The production features the effervescent Melissa Errico as Daisy Gamble, a young lady who has a remarkable ability to grow plants grow and make predictions that come true, but cannot break her smoking habit. As a last ditch effort, she seeks the help of Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus), who uses hypnosis to get patients to kick the habit.
Bruckner’s treatment, however, has unexpected consequences. Through hypnosis, Daisy channels Melinda Welles, a lusty lady in 18th century England who soon captures Bruckner’s heart.
If the plot seems somewhat convoluted and clumsy, it did give Lerner and Lane the opportunity to craft a lovely love song (“She Wasn’t You”), a rollicking dance number (S. S. Bernard Cohn) and one of the greatest “why doesn’t he love me?” songs ever written: “What Did I Have that I Don’t Have?” To say nothing of the beautiful title song.
Although Moore has made some changes in the script, she hasn’t tried to give the musical a major makeover as in the ill-advised 2011 Broadway revival in which Daisy becomes a gay man named David, who obviously has no chance with the straight doctor. Rather, she’s trimmed the show, cutting out subplots and supporting characters, to fit her intimate theater and limited pocketbook.
This means a small ensemble and some doubling up on roles. But the ensemble is energetic and talented; Rachel Coloff, who plays both Bruckner’s secretary, Mrs. Hatch, and Melinda Welles’ imperious mother, has great comic chops; and John Cudia, as Melinda’s errant lover, has a voice that makes the rafters shake and the heart pound.
If On a Clear Day is not quite convincing, it is always entertaining.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever ****
runs through August 12 at the Irish Repertory Theatre, 134 West 22 Street, www.irishrep.org. Photography: Carol Rosegg