Nothing can change the cockamamie story that has bedeviled every production of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” but nothing can also change the appeal of the songs, with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, with Lerner also responsible for the silly book. By cleverly paring down the original in her adaptation and direction of this revival by the Irish Repertory Theatre, adaptor and director Charlotte Moore has placed emphasis on the musical numbers, which is all to the good.
Also, in this minimalist version that fits the compact stage of the Irish Rep, there is not the embarrassment of huge production numbers that in larger mountings have made the cumbersome story all the more evident and painful.
Moore has also assembled an excellent cast, with Melissa Errico playing Daisy Gamble, who not only has ESP but has had a previous life in the 18th century as British Melinda Welles, a condition discovered by Stephen Bogardus as Dr. Mark Bruckner when he hypnotizes Daisy in 1960s New York to help her quit smoking. But Daisy’s problem is that she thinks he has fallen in love with her past persona instead of the gal she is in the 1960s.
The plot muddles along, but oh those songs—the title number foremost, and also ‘Hurry, It’s lovely Up Here,” “Ring Out the Bells,” “He Wasn’t You,” “She Wasn’t You,” “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?,” “Wait Till We’re Sixty-Five” and “Come Back to Me,” among others.
Errico, a fine actress, has a beautiful voice (she has starred on Broadway in “My Fair Lady” and other musicals), and Bogardus (he also has appeared in many Broadway shows) has a rich, impassioned voice. Another musical treat is provided by tenor John Cudia in the role of Edward Moncrief, a philandering artist betraying Melinda back in England.
There is a talented Ensemble, which Moore uses smartly at the outset singing “On a Clear Day” from a theater side elevation, and similarly at the close, with members also handling various supporting roles. The cast includes Florrie Bagel, William Bellamy, Rachel Coloff, Peyton Crim, Caitlin Gallogly, Matt Gibson, Daisy Hobbs and Craig Waletzko.
The talented musicians are scaled down to five instead of a huge orchestra, with musical direction by John Bell. The choreography is by Barry McNabb. James Morgan has creatively provided a mix of present and past set design largely relying on inventive use of projection.
The overall production gives audiences the opportunity to savor anew the music and lyric accomplishments while shrugging away the ridiculous plot premise that makes me recall an especially funny comment made by Johnny Carson concerning Shirley MacLaine’s belief that she has been reincarnated. Carson said that it was a good thing he was never married to her or he would be paying alimony all the way back to ancient Egypt.
At the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street. Phone: 866-811-4111. Reviewed July 3, 2018.