Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer has revised and reinvented the 1965 Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner cult-classic On a Clear Day You Can See Forever for a Broadway revival. New to the story is David Gamble, a chain-smoking gay florist — originated here by David Turner (In My Life, Arcadia) — who seeks help from Dr. Mark Bruckner (Harry Connick, Jr.) when his bad habits (smoking, not committing fully) get in the way of his relationship with Warren Smith (Drew Gehling). David is a reinvention of the original Clear Day's Daisy Gamble, whose past life (Melinda) is conjured when Mark puts her under hypnosis. Barbara Harrris played both Daisy and Melinda 45 years ago; Barbra Streisand played the roles on film. New book writer Peter Parnell and conceiver Mayer spread the roles among two actors — Turner as Bruckner's patient and Broadway newcomer Jessie Mueller as Melinda Wells, now revised as a 1940s jazz singer.
On opening night at Broadway's St. James Theatre, we caught a few minutes with Turner, who discussed the new character of Davey, and the challenges of Clear Day.
|photo by Paul Kolnik|
Can you describe the newly created character of Davey?
David Turner: There's a lot of talk about the comparison of the way the show used to be when it was Daisy and the way it is now when it's Davey. The boring truth is that I've had to completely ignore that because I know in my heart there is no way that I could ever fill Barbara Harris' shoes. There is obviously no way that I could fill Barbra Streisand's shoes — although I'd love to see her shoes and her shoe collection — so all I have to do is be Davey. I read a script. I got an audition. I did my best, and they picked me, and that's a very humbling thing. I could name five of my friends who I think can do it better, but they picked me. I just have to trust that there's something in my spirit that was congruent with that character of Davey. I plan to enjoy it as long as I can.
Davey is a character filled with conflict. What do you think his biggest struggle is?
DT: Without a doubt, Davey's biggest problem is his diffidence — his lack of belief in himself. From that emanates every other dramatic problem that occurs in the plot — his inability to commit to his boyfriend because of his lack of belief in himself [and] that he might not be worthy of love. [He experiences] all of the problems that we have in real life and the same reasons why we fall in love with people who are unavailable. I know people complain and say, "Why would he fall for an unavailable doctor?" Because we do stupid things in life. Look at A Midsummer Night's Dream. Human behavior has been depicted and made fun of, and our foibles exalted, since the beginning of dramatic literature. I would put Daisy, whether it's Daisy or Davey, in the same line of those characters — people who make mistakes because of who they are.
|photo by Paul Kolnik|
Working with the new book by Peter Parnell, the rehearsal process must have included a lot of fine-tuning. Can you tell me about that?
DT: I've never been in a production that made so many changes during previews, and it's thrilling. I don't know if you know this — I'm a pilot. I fly planes, and you've got to have a really quick brain to do that. I don't mean to brag, but I'm saying that my type of intelligence is quick. That's why I like comedy. I like responding immediately. I like not having a plan and being spontaneous, and this process has been very much like flying because sometimes you'll get new pages [of the script]… My dresser will sometimes hold my page and I would be looking at it until the last minute [before] I went on stage with a new scene. For some people, that's the dictionary definition of terror. For me, it feels like being alive.
In the second act you get to perform "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?," Davey's Big Number, alone on stage. It's a great moment for you. Tell me about that.
DT: Thank you. "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?" is a very famous song, and it has been sung famously by some very famous people, and that makes it extremely intimidating — I won't lie! [Laughs.] I have to do the same magic trick that I did to excise Daisy from my imagination, which is [ask myself], "What's this person feeling? What just happened? What was he expecting to happen when he walked in this room?" You have to go to the basics, and just create real circumstances for yourself. I wish I sang as good as Harry Connick, Jr. — I don't — but I try to do my best to be as much like that [character] in that situation that I can.
Tell me about falling in love with Harry Connick, Jr. every night.
DT: Falling in love with Harry Connick, Jr. every night is — I won't lie — torture. He's a disgusting person — his face, his body! What are you talking about?! [Laughs.] It's amazing, of course! I get to fall in love with Harry Connick, Jr. eight times a week. The great thing about Harry Connick, Jr. is that he's got a great heart, and if you'll excuse me, I'm going to talk to him, because he's amazing.
Michael Gioia's work frequently appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Playbill Video visits the stars of On a Clear Day on opening night: