REVIEW: ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER Is Given A 21st Century Update With Squabbalogic's Latest Adaptation


REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL

Tuesday 21st March 2023, 7:30pm, Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre Chippendale

Jay James-Moody's (adaptor, director, performer) adaptation of Burton Lane (Music) and Alan Jay Lerner's (Book & Lyrics) ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER puts a queer lens and feminist undertone to absurd story of past lives and unusual talents. Drawing inspiration from Peter Parnell's 2011 adaptation and Barbara Streisand's 1970 movie portrayal of the subject patient, this adaptation attempts to find a purpose for the bizarre book but thankfully Lane's beautiful music which was the hero of the original remains largely intact.

REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICALLoosely based on John L. Balderston's 1926 play, BERKLEY SQUARE which was in turn an adaptation of Henry James' 1917 unfinished novel THE SENSE OF THE PAST, ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER centers on psychiatrist Dr Mark Bruckner (Blake Bowden) and his patient David Gamble (Jay James-Moody), a character previously written as Daisy, but gender swapped in Parnell's update. For this James-Moody's update, the character has the added complexity of being not only gay as per Parnell's David but also somewhat gender fluid as they often identify as Daisy and adopt more feminine behaviors. James-Moody's Dr Bruckner is a recently widowed scientist exploring the ideas of regression and suggestion through the use of hypnosis who comes across David/Daisy by chance when they are affected by a demonstration at a lecture. While David/Daisy's interest in the lecture was to find a cure for their smoking beyond the substitution of addictions for gum, Dr Bruckner is captivated by their other talents which David/Daisy has tried to subdue with the belief that they are far too abnormal, particularly for their straight-laced uptight and insecure fiancé Warren (James Haxby). The ethically questionable therapy sessions awaken more than just an insight into the power of suggestion as it becomes apparent that David/Daisy has a connection to an early 20th century English woman, Melinda Welles (Madeline Jones) though David/Daisy has no knowledge of this development. While Dr Bruckner becomes captivated with Melinda, wanting to 'connect' with her across time and space while David/Daisy is catatonic on his couch, the unaware David/Daisy keeps visiting the Doctor as, having formed a crush on the Doctor, enjoy feeling useful in the task of helping the Doctor research English art, rounding out a convoluted love rectangle of the living and the dead, gay and straight, aware and ignorant.

REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICALWhile the location of the work is not particularly defined, for David/Daisy, Jay James-Moody has drawn on the movie version for his inspiration for the role as he echoes Barbara Streisand's Brooklyn sound for the insecure and vague 20-something who has lived a life of compliance, never really having any say in their own life. James-Moody ensures that David/Daisy remains an endearing character so Dr Bruckner's betrayal and Warren's callousness is clear as is the contrast to Melinda's self determination and progressive views. As the revealed soul within David/Daisy, Madeline Jones ensures that Melinda Welles is seen as a strong willed young woman who refused to submit to the expectations of 1920's England, showing signs of an early feminist philosophy as she escapes the prospect of an arranged marriage and later a bad marriage to the artist Edward (James Haxby) who treats his models as fair game for his advances. Jones and James-Moody work well together for the duets and dances, choreographed by Leslie Bell, where the expression reinforces that it is really David/Daisy's hypnotized body that Dr Bruckner is interacting with.

REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICALBlake Bowden ensures that there is a depth and complexity sitting below the surface of the doctor that at first seems skeptical and science based, still grieving for his recently deceased wife. He allows Dr Bruckner to evolve from the conservative and clinical to expressing conflicted feelings as he battles with he idea of maintaining his professional standards and pursuing something with Melinda without David/Daisy's knowledge or consent. He has the requisite charm that makes it easy to understand why David/Daisy is enamoured with him so that it also makes the degree of his actions even more surprising. The other side to both Melinda's story and David/Daisy's life is presented by James Haxby as he takes on roles of both David/Daisy's image conscious fiancé Warren, and also the reason that triggered Melinda's decision to flee England on an ill-fated transatlantic crossing, her artist husband Edward. He ensures that there are parallels that can be drawn between the two men as while Warren is too repressed to contemplate an affair, challenged enough with the fear that his career prospects will be affected by his relationship with David/Daisy, both men want to control their partners and expect that their behaviors will automatically be accepted by Melinda and David/Daisy.

REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICALBillie Palin, Natalie Abbott and Lincoln Elliott round out the cast, each doubling as David/Daisy's friends and other minor roles as well as filling out scene changes and choreographed numbers. With the whole work supported by Natalya Aynsley's (Musical Director) four piece band perched on the balcony above the stage, this work has a full enough sound for the scale of the production but at times the Oliver Brighton's sound design overwhelms the vocals, particularly for the ensemble numbers. Michael Hankin's set design leaves ample room for choreographed sequences and the three sides of retro-floating bookshelves keeps the work contained though does prove and challenge for some of the entrances with performers ducking under shelves. The choice to retain elements from each scene visible on stage helps link the work along with expressing the underlying importance of David/Daisy's 'talents' and uniqueness to the whole story.

REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICALREVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICALWhile having the opportunity to experience the well known songs from ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER in something akin to their original context, the overall story remains a touch too absurd to really engage with despite James-Moody's best efforts to bring it into the 21st century. There are elements that remain problematic, reinforcing why the work has had so few revivals since it first hit the Broadway stage in 1965. Go along for Burton Lane's beautiful songs that have become cabaret standards and dispel any idea of trying to find much sense of the plot apart from the importance of 'being awake' for your own life.

Photos: David Hooley

REVIEW: Ruva Ngwenya Delivers A Tremendous Performance in TINA, THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL

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