On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Adaptation: Jay James-Moody
Director: Jay James-Moody
March 21 – April 15, 2023
Jay James-Moody’s adaptation of a musical with a long history of mixed reviews is undoubtedly a success. Supremely entertaining, with memorably performed songs by a talented cast and a dynamic ensemble, On a Clear Day explores the complex themes of loss, gender, sexuality, and power amid the hilarity generated by a comedy of errors.
“On a Clear Day …” most people know the song and maybe have seen one of the several other incarnations of the original 1965 musical with music by Burton Lane and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. It is prime material for Squabbalogic, a company which aims to reimagine less performed material in a way relevant to the present and which, in this case, coincides with WorldPride Sydney 2023.
A major problem confronting the revised narrative is the distribution of focus between three key characters; Dr Mark Bruckner (Blake Bowden), a psychiatrist, Daisy/David Gamble (Jay James-Moody), his patient, and Melinda (Madeleine Jones), who emerges from Daisy’s unconscious mind during a regression into a past life and of whom he is unaware. While the insecure and quirky Daisy and the self-confident and challenging Melinda are bound to capture attention, how not to sideline the withdrawn Mark, grieving for the loss of his wife?
We might understand the glamorous 1920s Melinda – who comes complete with a grumpy, womanising artist husband, Edward Moncrief (James Haxby) – as a projection Daisy’s inner desire to fit the demands of his male fiancé, Warren (also Haxby) – but is that it? Is she more a creation of Mark’s desire to have his wife restored to him? Or is there yet a further question which the straight Mark is reluctant to put to himself in any other way than through another man’s fantasy? How well that question is put in a beautifully choreographed and time dance sequence.
From the moment Daisy pops up from the theatre audience (and hooking them straight into the action) during a public demonstration of the power of hypnosis, James-Moody wins hearts. His supernatural powers are endearing if annoying to others, and his desire to be cured of his smoking addiction – an expression of his wish to escape the brutal criticisms of a self-hating gay partner – is spurred by his attraction to Mark who seems to appreciate him for himself alone. But is this the case? Or rather is Daisy just a case that feeds Mark’s research into reincarnation as solace for his own grief? Does Mark overreach the trust a vulnerable patient places in him? Should we hate him?
Happily, the musical numbers include songs omitted from the 1965 production and songs written for the Streisand film all of which are incorporated in a way supportive to the narrative. The ensemble (Billie Palin, Natalie Abbott, Lincoln Elliott and Haxby) shine in the comedic numbers, James-Moody winningly saddened in “What did I have that I don’t have”, Jones (with ensemble) fiercely proactive in “Don’t tamper with my sister” and however well the song is known, Bowden’s finale to each act, “On a Clear Day …” is delivered with impact.
The semi-concealed orchestra (orchestrations by Natalya Aynsley) above the stage was a pleasing addition, the lighting used to considerable and changing effects, and the settings gliding from no-nonsense office to flourishing floor top garden smoothly. While reimaginings are risky business these days, good production values are always important.