Spoiler Alert! We Conjure Plot Points From the Revised On a Clear Day

PlayBlog   Spoiler Alert! We Conjure Plot Points From the Revised On a Clear Day
Director Michael Mayer has kept mum about changes made to the 1965 musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which he has reconceived for a new generation. The refreshed Clear Day was made public July 29-Aug. 1 in a starry — and sold-out — Vassar College and New York Stage & Film's Powerhouse Theater concert run. The performances prefigure a 2011 Off-Broadway run at Vineyard Theatre.

Since the rewrite has now been made public, albeit in Poughkeepsie — and because the Burton Lane-Alan Jay Lerner score is a favorite of show-music fans — we now offer some details about the 21st-century On a Clear Day. We had a couple of moles in the house on Aug. 1.

As this is still a developing work, please consider that the elements are written in ink, not carved in stone. Mayer and librettist Peter Parnell and music director-arranger Lawrence Yurman will use what they learned this summer and continue working on the show. Casting for the early 2011 full production will be announced.

We're in major spoiler territory here, so be warned: Stop reading if you don't want to learn about plot points, songs and surprises.

  • In a major change from the original source material, Dr. Mark Bruckner (played by Brian d'Arcy James), a psychiatrist, is no longer treating a neurotic chain-smoking woman named Daisy Gamble, whose past life as 18th-century siren Melinda Wells is revealed in hypnosis sessions. This time, his patient is David Gamble (played by David Turner), a gay man who works in a Greenwich Village flower shop (he sings "Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here"). Under hypnosis (an effort to curb his smoking), it is revealed that his past life was as Melinda Wells (Anika Noni Rose), a 1940s jazz singer on the rise.

  • Dr. Bruckner, still struggling with the death of his wife, falls in love with Melinda through his sessions with David. ("He Isn't You," from the film score, is now "She Isn't You," which references his late wife, and is later revised as a quartet "He Wasn't You" in Act Two.) Melinda's world is illuminated through songs pulled from Lerner and Lane's musical score from the film "Royal Wedding." Her numbers now include "Ev'ry Night at Seven," "You're All the World to Me," "Open Your Eyes" and "Too Late Now."

  • David is confused by Dr. Bruckner's attention (there is even an embrace), and it causes tension in David's relationship with his boyfriend Warren. David sings all of the songs that were assigned to Daisy in the original (including "What Do I Have That I Don't Have") plus "Go to Sleep," pulled from the film version.

  • The musical is set in Nixon-era America, 30 years after Melinda's World War II-era heyday. David is 30 years old. ESP and magic powers (such as Daisy's ability to make flowers grow before your eyes) are no longer prominent in the plot, though "Come Back to Me" is a psychic attempt (by both Dr. Bruckner and Warren) to reach an absent David.

  • "Love With All the Trimmings," from the 1970 film version, is now assigned to boyfriend Warren.

  • Dr. Bruckner learns of Melinda's fate in the 1940s (she died — no surprise there, as she had to in order to be reincarnated as David). They sing a duet about the inevitability of death ("Too Late Now"/"Open Your Eyes"), and they part for the last time, though not before the doctor asks her to give David her self-confidence.

  • Students at Dr. Bruckner's school sing "When I'm Being Born Again," which now has the flavor of (East) Indian music. In the original, it was sung by an Aristotle Onassis-style tycoon seeking to leave his fortune to his next life. The songs "Melinda" (a haunting ballad) and "On the S.S. Bernard Cohn" (about a "date" that David and the doctor went on) are retained from the original score, as is "Wait 'Til We're Sixty-Five" (for Warren and David and their pals) and the title song.

  • The Vassar production had a cast of 13 with doubling. The band numbered four, including the music director.Due to a family emergency, Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose was unable to participate in the July 30 Vassar concert reading of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Alysha Umphress stepped in and performed the role of Melinda Wells. Rose returned for the two remaining performances on Aug. 1.

    — Kenneth Jones & David Gewirtzman

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