Venue: Seymour Centre (Sydney NSW), Mar 17 – Apr 15, 2023
Book and Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner (adaptation by Jay James-Moody)
Music: Burton Lane
Director: Jay James-Moody
Cast: Natalie Abbott, Blake Bowden, Lincoln Elliott, James Haxby, Jay James-Moody, Madeleine Jones, Billie Palin
Images by David Hooley
Daisy is put under hypnosis by Dr Bruckner, to explore a sort of regression therapy, in order that the origins of Daisy’s ESP abilities can be uncovered. Quite by accident, a past life emerges, and Bruckner promptly falls for the ghost of Melinda, who seems to reside in Daisy’s body. The trouble however, is in the liberties that the doctor takes with his patient’s body. Daisy remains unaware of Melinda’s existence, and is certainly oblivious to the physical intimacies being shared, whilst in a trance.
Alan Jay Lerner’s 1965 book and lyrics for the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever certainly would not fly in today’s climate, especially if Daisy was a woman. This current adaptation by Jay James-Moody, takes inspiration from the 2011 Broadway adaptation, and makes Daisy a man, presumably so that the quandary of gender imbalance in the original is eliminated. A case of sexual assault between men, along with professional impropriety, is however still at the centre of the piece, and it is arguable if the production addresses either adequately.
The show begins with wonderful charm, as we are introduced to the three main characters, all of whom are played by extremely likeable performers; James-Moody as Daisy, along with Blake Bowden as Bruckner and Madeleine Jones as Melinda, form quite the formidable team. The supporting cast of Natalie Abbott, Lincoln Elliott, James Haxby and Billie Palin, too is an accomplished foursome, each with evident commitment to the cause.
As we get into the nitty-gritty of the story, a lethargy unfortunately develops, and a conspicuous lack of theatrical verve persists until the end of Act 1. Returning from interval, things take a swift turn, and a much more convivial experience takes hold, for a comedy that is although problematic, has the capacity to keep its audience engrossed.
Set design by Michael Hankin is creatively imagined, and beautifully realised by Bella Rose Saltearn, but awkward entrances and exits, reveal an oversight perhaps, of the show’s more practical requirements. Costumes, also by Hankin, establish strongly the personality types we encounter, but it is not entirely convincing that an English woman from 1923 is wearing trousers outside of the sporting field, or that Daisy would be wearing shorts, to embark on a vacation to Vancouver. Lights by James Wallis, operate delicately to offer visual enhancements for recurring supernatural elements, but several deficient blackouts, prove distracting for an otherwise pleasurable vista.
Natalya Aynsley’s orchestrations and arrangements are inexhaustibly elegant, fully utilising the score’s old Broadway sound to great nostalgic effect. Subtle sound design by Oliver Brighton delivers further auditory magic, with thoughtful adjustments that help us place the narrative in oscillating realms, moving us between past and present, real and metaphysical.
Not only has Dr Bruckner recently lost his wife, he is now dealing with the complications of having amorous feelings for another dead woman, as well as being newly enamoured with a real human male. All this vulnerability could make Brucker an empathetic character, but he should not be regarded as anything other than the villain of the piece. It is unforgivable behaviour, even if disguised by some of the most romantic music, and plenty of sweet nothings, one can hear.