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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Music by Burton Lane and original book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, new book by Peter Parnell
St James Theater, New York
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Jessie Mueller and Harry Connick Jr in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever at St James Theatre, New York

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is an unashamedly old-fashioned musical that has been revived by Michael Mayer as a star vehicle for Harry Connick, Jr. but might also prove to be a star maker for Jessie Mueller.

Connick plays a psychiatrist, Dr Mark Bruckner, who has never recovered from the early death of his beloved wife three years before the play’s updated setting of 1974.

He becomes a social misfit and meets another in David Turner’s David Gamble, a gay florist soon to turn 30. In an effort to cure his patient’s smoking habit and by extension his love life, Dr Bruckner hypnotises him with ethereal results.

Believe it or not, David regresses to 1943 and steps back an incarnation to become chanteuse Melinda Wells, Miss Mueller. Piling on the mystique, Dr Mark then enters David’s dream and falls for the little lady with the big voice.

Even for a Broadway musical this stretches credibility, but as long as you accept the fantasy there is fun to be had.

New book writer Peter Parnell has made some significant changes from the original production and the subsequent film version starring Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand. Back in the day, David was heterosexual Daisy Gamble while the flashbacks saw Melinda Wells in the late 18th Century rather than mid-20th.

The music is standard fare for musicals of the era, c. 1965. It is delivered sweetly, with Connick sounding uneerily like a reincarnation of Frank Sinatra in any number of songs leading up to the show’s one really famous tune, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever".

In support, Jessie Mueller proves to be the real McCoy, particularly with "Too Late Now", while David Turner eventually shows powerful tonsils singing "What Did I Have That I Don’t Have". Sarah Stiles also hits the right note, regularly amusing as David’s kooky roommate Muriel.

Much of the choreography is predictable cod-1970s fare but Joann M Hunter excels with a really imaginative and tricky tripartite piece of work to accompany "You’re All the World to Me".

This unorthodox lesson in un-Freudian psychiatry and ghostly love is likely to prove most popular with those that can remember the era in which it is set and they may conveniently also be Harry Connick, Jr’s natural constituency.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher