Critics pummel Broadway's 'On a Clear Day' and Harry Connick, Jr.
Sometimes, theater critics gang up on a new production like sharks in a feeding frenzy. It happened with "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" earlier this year. And it is happening now with the new Broadway quasi-revival of "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever," starring Harry Connick, Jr. and Jessie Mueller.
"On a Clear Day," featuring songs by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, is a musical comedy about a reincarnated woman with extra-sensory perception and her relationship with a psychiatrist. The musical debuted on Broadway in 1965 starring John Cullum and Barbara Harris.
The new revival is playing at the St. James Theatre in New York and is directed by Tony-winner Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening"). The plot has gone through a major overhaul, in which the woman with ESP is now reincarnated as a gay man (David Turner).
Last week, the New York Post ran a review of the show while it was still in previews, breaking with journalistic tradition. The reviewer, John Podhoretz, described the production as a "catastrophe," adding that "when shows go as wrong as this one, everything goes wrong, and from the first minute." He also noted: "I bought tickets at full price, so I'm violating no reviewing embargo."
Subsequent reviews in other newspapers haven't been any kinder to the revival.
Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote that the musical "has the approximate fun quotient of a day in an M.R.I. machine." Connick "has the look of a man just out of grueling dental surgery, who is both in pain and still semi-anesthetized. And he makes even an up number like the title song sound like an exquisitely sung dirge."
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney wrote that the revisions provide "an interesting twist but [they do] little to alleviate the high-concept issues while also fragmenting the eccentric charms of what used to be the central character."
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News put much of the blame on Connick, whom he believes is miscast: "While Connick has that signature husky voice, he’s challenged in the charm department on stage. He's stiff and brooding and hangs over the musical like that gray cloud in the depression commercial on TV."
The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones wrote that "despite a few sunny intervals in the slightly stronger second act, the clouds rain down and you can't really see where you are going." Connick is rather stiff and "is just not given a character or persona within which he can rest easy."
-- David Ng
Photo: Harry Connick Jr. and Jessie Mueller in "On a Clear Day You Can Forever." Credit: Paul Kolnick