Monday, December 12, 2011

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever Opens on Broadway

A Broadway revival of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's 1965 musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, which became a 1970 movie of the same name starring Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford, has opened on Broadway and the reviews are in.

Variety Magazine was not all too pleased with the revival, saying that the changes director Michael Mayer has made to the show not only do not add to, but actually take away from, the show. The change in question is to have taken the central female role, who goes from a 1960's simple female to a glamorous 19th century noblewoman when under hypnosis, and divided it between a gay man (in the 1960s) and the same noblewoman in the past. Variety complains that the fun of the original was in watching the female lead, for whom this show is traditionally a vehicle, transition quickly and frequently between her two parts, with the male counterpart (a doctor administering hypnosis to her) simply sitting by and watching as a supporting character. Mr. Mayer's gender change has not only taken away the fun of watching this constant switch but has also put the burden of a leading role on the doctor -- a character who simply cannot bear the weight of a lead. As the reviewer put it, "The skeleton of the Clear Day plot is retained, but without a leading lady playing dual roles, it's like a banana split without bananas." The requisite surgery to the score is both clumsy and rather nonsensical, with certain numbers being overblown into production numbers and others robbed of their meaning when sung by a male.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times was much more creative in his panning of the production, asking "Where the heck is Zoloft (and Prozac and Abilify) when you need the little suckers?" He accuses the show of "suffering from a case of clinical depression that [it's] never been able to get over." Brantley equally well complains of the gender switch, adding another layer of complaint to the pile. The 18th century alter-ego of the former leading lady is now a 1940s big band singer. This change required the reshuffling of songs and adding pieces to the score not originally meant for this show, including some old Fred Astaire numbers from the movies. Another problem with this production is that Harry Conick, Jr., whose matinee idol status and charms are usually clearly on display when he performs, is nowhere to be found in this production.

Both reviews also discussed the harshness of the production design, which was panned for its too-bright colors and overly busy patters. All in all, this production is not feeling the love from the critics.

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