BWW Reviews: ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER, Union Theatre, September 6 2013
In the 1970s, "On a clear day you can see forever" seemed never to be off the radio. That I did not know that so familiar a song was from a musical - moreover, the title song of a musical - shows how thoroughly buried the Burton Lane / Alan Jay Lerner show has been after its tricky first run in 1965 and even trickier Broadway revival in 2011. On the evidence of the Union Theatre's splendid 2013 production, it's hard to see why it suffered such a fate. Sure it's far-fetched, but, hey, it's musical theatre FFS!
Daisy Gamble is a high-spirited New York co-ed whose fiance, Warren, dreams only of a company retirement plan, wishing away his one life, never mind enjoying a handful. Daisy visits psychiatrist Dr Bruckner in order to give up smoking and instantly falls asleep under his hypnosis (and, later, falls in love under his spell). This susceptibilty to his skills fascinates the doctor - a fascination that goes to another level when Daisy (under hypnosis) "becomes" Melinda, an 18th century upper class Englishwoman with a complicated love life. By this stage, we're one step away from New Age mumbo-jumbo, but, with recovered memories now a rather more serious business than they were in the 60s, it's an acceptable hook for a plot - just. Anyway, the songs are great!
Vicki Lee Taylor sings splendidly and moves between the accents and facial expressions of Daisy and Melinda with great techncial skill - if she didn't, the conceit would give way and the show collapse, so this is a most praiseworthy performance. As her psychiatrist, Nadeem Crowe is creepy and cruel, but, by the end of the show, he suggests just enough for us to believe that he might accept Daisy as she is, even if it's Melinda he wants. It's another part that makes significant demands on the actor - and I'm beginning to see how previous incarnations of the show failed! There's plenty of good support from the ensemble for the couple's unlikely century-hopping menage-a-trois, with the close harmony singing a particular delight.
It's a strange, sometimes slightly silly, sometimes slightly sordid, show that masks its feelgood factor in the time-travelling complications and the awkwardness of a doctor-patient romance. But the songs, the melodies and the lyrics, are worthy of the writers' reputations and this well-judged production does justice to them. And, if a musical can't get round a dodgy plot with some great tunes, then about half the genre can be binned!
On a clear day you can see forever continues at the Union Theatre until September 28.