The singing, at least, is crisp and tuneful, but in every other way the Irish Repertory Theatre’s production of Alan Jay Lerner’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is modest, too modest.
Perhaps it is the meek staging, with electronic screens behind the actors showing splodgy, painted scenes of a 1960s New York skyline, or 18th century England. There are little rectangles that are supposed to be a New York roof. The orchestra, semi-hidden at the back of the stage, does its best to animate Burton Lane’s score. But the size and conception of the production plays against it.
Part of the problem is the musical, first produced on Broadway in 1965 and which Lerner wrote the book and lyrics for, is so simple and drawn-out your teeth may chatter at its extended imposition in your life.
Daisy Gamble (Melissa Errico, excellent) is the kind of gal in an old-school musical by a man who just wants to get ahead in life. The other women in the musical, her pals, feel the same. You want to spend time with them, as they seek to make it in the big city.
But no: Daisy is also a reincarnation, whose alter ego from years ago is a certain Melinda Welles, British lady of past times, hopelessly in love with Edward, a feckless artist with gorgeous, long, untrustworthy hair (John Cudia).
Dr. Mark Bruckner (Stephen Bogardus) is the handsome silver fox shrink who first falls for ye olde Melinda, while Daisy is channeling her at his office (she’s trying to give up smoking, but this hypnosis therapy has veered off track a bit). Then—less creepily, but still kind of creepy—Dr. B falls for Daisy herself.
Don’t do it, Daisy, you want to shout. But you know how musicals written by men are. Soon, thoughts about job applications are cast off the unconvincing roof. Can Daisy, whose self-negation is more disturbing and worthy of a good therapist's time than her past lives, and Dr. Creepy get it on on the right terms in the present day, sans the ghost of Melinda? Three guesses (you won't need them).
And does he help her with her self-negation? Another three guesses (you won't need them).
Padding this out are a capable company of actors and singers. But either the production has miscalculated the stage it’s on, or the small Irish Rep stage isn’t the best partner for whatever the production has in mind. You simply don’t buy you’re on a New York roof, or in an 18th-century salon, or at an airport, and when an 18th-century ship is supposed to be sinking there has to be a better way of evoking that than having the actors simply running all over the stage and banging into the walls.
Small theatrical spaces are hard to mount big-feeling productions on. And so it is that On a Clear Day You Can See Forever both feels pallid and plodding, and also big-hearted and determined. The best moments come right at the beginning and right at the end, when the company sings—with silky loveliness, on the theatre's staircase—the well-known reprise of the title.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is at the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street, NYC, until August 12. Book tickets here.