This isn’t the first time I have disagreed with a few reviewers. I LIKED this show. There were a few potholes in the story, but the entire thing gallops forward with such determination and skill that I stayed on board the wagon.
Normally I don’t like it when shows are re-worked, but this one was intriguing on many levels. Originally this is a story set in the mid-60’s about a woman who has a way with plants and possesses a serious case of ESP. She can tell when phones will ring and anticipate people dropping in. She also is a heavy smoker and wants to check this habit in order to keep her beau. Hence she goes to a shrink, who uncovers her past life from the 19th century when he hypnotizes her. The shrink falls in love with the woman from the past life and works to bring that personality forward in order to let it blend into the insecure patient he is treating.
Fast-forward to the film with Barbra Streisand in which a character was added for Jack Nicholson, story details and song lyrics changed as well as entire songs eliminated and added.
So the fact that this show has been re-invented yet again should not be a big deal.
The main change is that the time is set 1974, a fashion low point, and the patient, Daisy, has been changed to David, (David Turner) who is gay and in a committed relationship. So when Dr. Mark Bruckner (Harry Connick, Jr.) hypnotizes David and discovers a past life (now as a woman from the 1940’s), it is still a woman he falls for, Melinda (Jessie Mueller), but this time she is inside the body of a young man. What was once a sort of wild fairy tale now includes gender equality with a smattering of bisexual consideration - now that there is an update.
The weird part is that most of this is believable in that odd “let us suspend our disbelief” way that only theatre can produce. The main reason is Harry Connick, who is a captivating performer. He is sincere and whimsical. He is self-effacing and dry. He is very, very funny. And when he shares the stage, he really shares the stage. Finally, there is his singing – which is up there in the category to which Barbara Cook refers when she says that you have to tell a story when you sing. Connick knows his songs and takes no prisoners.
The phenomenal Jessie Mueller as Melinda who, unlike a lot of young performers, also understands about the story of a song and doesn’t trade that in for the sake of sounding like an American Idol contestant, matches Connick note for note. She is glorious, and the combination of their voices is spectacular.
David Gamble is over the top, but straps himself securely to the hood of the car and wears you down with his persistence. Drew Gehling (Warren Smith) and Sarah Stiles (Muriel Bunson) round out the story as the loyal and logical bookends with fabulous comic timing and vocal skills.
Michael Mayer’s direction is predictable enough to cause solo moments to end up down stage center but is saved in large part by Joan M. Hunter’s choreography that enhances and expands the story. The supporting cast is top notch. They portray so many characters it makes your head spin, and with the exception of Kerry O’Malley, who as Dr. Sharone Stein is as exciting as a bowl of white rice, they are cracker-jack.
With the exception of eliminating the first act appearance of the title song so that it’s appearance at the end of the second act makes it more of a dangling participle than a coda, the whole she-bang works. This production is like one of those English Christmas desserts with cream and strawberries and Lady Fingers and God only knows what else. The sound of it and the logic behind it are mystifying. But you think, “What the heck – it’s a holiday and I’ll try it.” You do, and are glad you did.
Treat yourself to this bowl of cherries.
"The approximate fun quotient of a day in an M.R.I. machine."
Ben Brantley for NY Times
"Unfortunately, this 'Clear Day' manages just a dull glimmer."
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News
"Harry Connick Jr. is so stiff and ill at ease is a huge bummer"
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Depressing misfire, ...starring a distinctly ill-at-ease Harry Connick Jr. "
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"A moderately successful effort at theatrical resuscitation."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"I give director Michael Mayer and company credit for taking on this nearly impossible assignment but "On A Clear Day's" day has clearly come and gone."
Roma Torre for NY1
"A musical best watched with your eyes closed."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"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."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"The outlook for this 'Clear Day' is stormy."
Steven Suskin for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...