Review Roundup: ON A CLEAR DAY... on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Grammy and Emmy Award winner, Tony Award nominee and multi-platinum recording artist Harry Connick, Jr. stars as Dr. Mark Bruckner in the newly imagined production of ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER which opened December 11, 2011 on Broadway at The St. James Theatre. The roles of David Gamble and Melinda Wells are played, respectively, by David Turner and Jessie Mueller, in her Broadway debut. The score by Burton Lane (music) and Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics) is enhanced by classics from their film scores for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) and Royal Wedding (1951). With a new book by Peter Parnell based on the original book by Alan Jay Lerner, the musical is reconceived and directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer, with choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter.
Joining Connick, Turner and Mueller are Kerry O'Malley as Sharone, Drew Gehling as Warren, Sarah Stiles as Muriel, Paul O'Brien, Heather Ayers, Lori Wilner, Benjamin Eakeley, Alex Ellis, Kendal Hartse, Grasan Kingsberry, Tyler Maynard, Zachary Prince, Alysha Umphress, Philip Hoffman, Sean Allan Krill, Patrick O'Neill, and Christianne Tisdale.
The creative team for ON A CLEAR DAY includes two-time Tony Award winner Christine Jones (Sets), five-time Tony Award winner Catherine Zuber (Costumes), three-time Tony Award winner Kevin Adams (Lighting), two-time Tony Award winner Peter Hylenski (Sound), Tom Watson (Hair), Lawrence Yurman (Music Director & Arrangements) and three-time Tony Award winner Doug Besterman (Orchestrations).
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Where the heck is Zoloft (and Prozac and Abilify) when you need the little suckers? This wholesale reconception of a fluffy, muddled 1965 musical about reincarnation appears to have given everyone who appears in it — including its charismatic star, Harry Connick Jr. — a moaning case of the deep-dyed blues. Though done up to resemble a psychedelic fun house (the sanitized, perky kind that brings to mind middle-of-the-road rock album covers from the late 1960s and early ’70s), this “Clear Day” still has the approximate fun quotient of a day in an M.R.I. machine.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The diagnosis is in for Harry Connick Jr.'s Broadway musical about a psychiatrist undergoing a psychic meltdown: It needs more time on the couch. A completely reworked "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," which opened Sunday at the St. James Theatre, has some glorious voices, brilliantly trippy sets and some nifty moments, but its plot doesn't quite sing and it spends too much time oddly listless.
David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: If this production is a mixed bag, hearing these songs in the hands of a full orchestra and vocally talented cast is its own reward. And given how many great scores remain archived away because the shows that contain them are unviable, Mayer and Parnell at least deserve credit for this adventurous experiment.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: The muddled but appealing production that opened Sunday at the St. James Theatre shares the title with and features characters and songs from the show and movie. But as reconceived by director Michael Mayer, with a new libretto by Peter Parnell, this On a Clear Day (* * * out of four) challenges our ability to suspend disbelief in even more dizzying ways.
Steve Suskin, Variety: The skeleton of the "Clear Day" plot is retained, but without a leading lady playing dual roles, it's like a banana split without bananas. Melinda's neurotic half, Daisy, is now played by a slip of a boy who works in a flower shop; the unsuccessful surgery weakens the score. Some songs, which refer to Daisy's excised ESP story thread, seem robbed of their meaning; the now extraneous title song is relegated to the closing spot. Two songs have been transformed into overblown production numbers, and the new plot calls for seven reprises. (Added songs come from the Fred Astaire pic "Royal Wedding.") The keen listener will notice numerous unfamiliar lyrics; Lerner seems to have been rewritten by an uncredited hand, and clumsily so.
Elisabeth Vincetelli, NY Post: "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” is known for its great songs — and nutty book. Revived on Broadway for the first time since its 1965 opening, the Burton Lane/Alan Jay Lerner musical has undergone a drastic overhaul. Guess what? This “revisal” still has great songs and a nutty book — along with a downcast lead who looks as if he’d rather be anywhere but the St. James Theatre, where the show opened last night.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: In the end, all the changes don’t really enhance the show’s message to wake up and to love who you are. That was always right there in the lush and life-affirming title song’s lyric: “The glow that surrounds you outshines every star.” Unfortunately, this “Clear Day” manages just a dull glimmer.
Linda Winer, Newsday: So it's a relief and a special pleasure to report that Mayer, in a square-cornered turn from his smart-rock productions of "Spring Awakening" and "American Idiot," has joined playwright Peter Parnell to change an unworkable plot into a more-than-serviceable gender-bending framework. There's a mostly-classy cast, a fantasy op-art set and almost two dozen wonderful songs from the Broadway production and the film. ... It helps credibility that Jessie Mueller, who plays her, happens to be pretty irresistible, too. Mueller, a Chicago talent in her Broadway debut, has a forthright, confident rhythm that suggests the young Liza Minnelli but a delicate, deliciously precise sound all her own.
Erik Haagensen, Backstage: To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it's the songs, stupid. More specifically, the clutch of top-flight tunes written by book writer–lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Burton Lane for their problematic 1965 Broadway musical comedy about reincarnation, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever." Those siren songs have lured re-conceiver–director Michael Mayer right onto the rocks in this misguided retooling attempt. Mayer and current book writer Peter Parnell keep trying to jam them into a new story and characters that manifestly don't want them, diminishing the very thing Mayer and Parnell supposedly value. The result is the depressing misfire currently at the St. James Theatre, starring a distinctly ill-at-ease Harry Connick Jr.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: Third-tier musicals have their place, sometimes producing hidden gems or giving newcomers a chance to shine. No such luck here. Connick is in his Sinatra-lite mode; the singing is passable but he marks time until the final scene, which has some juice. As the woman he falls for, Jessie Mueller, has some fine moments, especially in the lovely “Ev’ry Night at Seven,” one of several numbers interpolated from other Lerner and Lane scores. But they’re surrounded by a shrill, modestly talented cast reduced to frugging about Christine Jones’s Op Art sets, in Catherine Zuber’s atypically unsightly costumes. The uninspired retro choreography is by JoAnn M. Hunter. Whenever the dancing stops, Mayer plants his leads down stage to stare and sing directly at us. He’s got our attention -- for all the wrong reasons.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The reincarnation of the 1965 musical "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" now begins with its leading man, a shrink named Dr. Mark Bruckner, addressing a 1974 meeting of the American Psychological Association and discussing a patient who apparently was someone else in a past life, a someone with whom this doctor fell in love. When the star of the new Broadway version, Harry Connick Jr., starts to lecture, you're immediately put in mind of Al Gore. The craggy crooner, who plays opposite the gorgeously voiced Chicago star Jessie Mueller in a troubled and perplexing show that is hardly the best vehicle for her Broadway debut, has a physical resemblance to the handsome former vice president, and he also embodies some of Gore's signature stiffness. But among many inconvenient truths in this revival, with a radically retooled new book by Peter Parnell and direction and reconception by Michael Mayer, Connick — the big star on the marquee — is just not given a character or persona within which he can rest easy.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: The show works, but it's unlikely to bowl you over. Unless you're a sucker for star-is-born stories.
Jonathan Mandel, The Faster Times: His fans might feel let down, but it is difficult to call the new Broadway production of “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” a complete disappointment. That is because even its director, Michael Mayer, has said the original 1965 Broadway show was unsuccessful, and its plot “extremely problematic.” (A reviewer in 1965 called it “labored and creaky.”) So how can you be completely disappointed when expectations are so low? Long in love with Burton Lane’s score, Mayer decided he would revamp everything else, hiring playwright Peter Parnell to rewrite Alan Jay Lerner’s book. The director’s efforts have yielded any number of satisfactions: The songs are tuneful, the singers know what they are doing, there are some amusing moments; as a bonus, there is even something of a gay twist that already has disturbed a troglodyte or two. But none of these satisfactions are enough to make “On A Clear Day” much more than an intermittently entertaining oddity.
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: Well, you get the picture, even if audiences may find it spotty. The plot was tough in 1965, without all the sexual confusion that in fact gives the plot new depth - even as it makes it harder to believe. Except for the memory scenes with Melinda, On A Clear Day was set then in the '60s. It's update takes place in the mid '70s, still with Alan J. Lerner's lyrics and Burton Lane's lovely music, although some of it was not in the original and much of the rest has been moved around to nicely fit the new plot.
Michael Musto, Villiage Voice: By the end, you've become intrigued enough by the sexuality complications stemming from the Doctor/David dynamic to almost forget the relative jumble that preceded it. Connick is especially touching as he's forced to confront the death of his various lady loves and move on.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: It must have been an overcast day when the team behind On a Clear Day You Can See Forever decided to revive this short-lived 1965 musical. Granted, the score boasts some delightful melodies, including the title track, by composer Burton Lane and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. But Lerner's original book was widely dismissed as a mess involving a woman with ESP, reincarnation, and a hypnosis-practicing shrink who falls for his patient's past life.
David Cote, Time Out NY: It was broke, but they sure ain’t fixed it. In fact, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’s bumbling show doctors should be sued for malpractice and felonious misuse of star talent. Manslaughter, too: The patient died on the slab. The famously flawed 1965 Burton Lane–Alan Jay Lerner romantic comedy about extrasensory perception, past lives and a kooky gal with a magical green thumb has been reincarnated into a clunky bore that switches time periods and gender, inserts a gay subplot and turns its putative hero—psychologist Dr. Mark Bruckner (Connick)—into a creepy, manipulative stalker. Is this a tuneful retro quirkfest or Dressed to Kill?
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: Not only is his name displayed in giant-sized letters in front of the theater, and his photo prominently featured on the Playbill cover, but even the T-shirts at the theater's concession stand have "Harry Connick Jr." emblazoned above the title of the show. What a surprise, then, that the suave singing star's performance in the seriously reworked revival of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," which opened Sunday at the St. James Theatre, is overshadowed by the efforts of two little-known cast mates.