On A Clear Day You Can See Forever finds David ‘Daisy’ Gamble (Jay James-Moody) on the psychiatrist’s couch of Dr Mark Bruckner (Blake Bowden), as he undergoes hypnosis therapy in order to quit his nicotine addiction.
Regression therapy turns séance as Bruckner accidentally discovers the presence of the vivacious – if tragically dead – Melinda Welles (Madeleine Jones), an interloper from the 1920s, who is apparently haunting Daisy’s subconscious in 2023.
Complications arise as David falls for his handsome doctor – while Bruckner falls for Melinda via David’s body.
In Squabbalogic’s new production, updated by James-Moody from the Broadway musical by Alan Jay Lerner with music by Burton Lane, a superb cast bring to life the comic and romantic possibilities of this scenario with panache and style.
James-Moody is an adorably outstanding lead, sharing great chemistry with co-star Bowden – while Jones is extremely effective bringing to life Melinda’s chafing at the restrictions of her era.
They’re backed by a fantastic supporting cast including Natalie Abbott, Lincoln Elliott, James Haxby and Billie Palin – with Haxby, in particular, deftly handling his dual role.
Meanwhile, Natalya Aynsley’s orchestrations and arrangements gorgeously evoke the style, zest and fun of the classic Broadway musical.
All of this would be enough to guarantee a great night out of theatre – if it wasn’t for the built-in complexities inherent in the central scenario.
First, whether Melinda is an expression of Daisy’s unconscious or a genuine voice from the past, the paralleling of their lives seems significant.
We see them both strive for self-identity in their respective time periods – but while issues of gender and sexuality are raised in the complicated love-triangle between Bruckner, Daisy and Melinda, it doesn’t (or can’t) dwell on them here to a satisfactory extent.
Second, more significantly, the doctor’s relationship to Daisy is problematic – and in a way that sits uneasily with the tone of the rest of the piece.
OK, granted, the situation comes with zany supernatural trappings but, still, consent plays a big role here.
It’s hard to see the doctor taking advantage of his patient, without their knowledge, as anything other than pretty reprehensible – and while the show is prepared to call Bruckner out on it, it does so fairly lightly.
It doesn’t help that, in this adaptation, the manifestation of Daisy’s inner life is played literally by another person – while Daisy’s ‘body’ is often presented unconscious on the couch, or moving about as a passive third-wheel.
Frankly, taking things at face value, we get a queasy sense the doctor is either kinda nuts and/or an exploitative a**hole.
True, we’re told that he’s lost his wife, who was also coincidentally called Melinda, as part of an explanation for his fixation – so maybe this is all an expression of profound grief, and absurd romanticism. Whatever the case, it doesn’t feel quite right that he can sing his way back to being our flawed dreamboat.
We’re left with a sense of a script that has perhaps bitten off a little more than it can chew thematically. Or that it needed to commit to dark, intense psychology but obviously can’t because it’s… a fun Broadway musical about the paranormal.
Still, with these problems in mind, it is ultimately testament to the rest of the production that we can be swept up with the story and music of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. There’s plenty to enjoy here for those who love musical theatre – but it’s a pity the murkier thematic elements can get in the way, to some extent, of the clearer talent of the performers.
Squabbalogic and Seymour Centre present
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre
Book and Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner
Music: Burton Lane
Revised and Adapted by Jay James-Moody
Director: Jay James-Moody
Musical Director, Orchestrator and Arranger: Natalya Aynsley
Choreographer: Leslie Bell
Set and Costume Design Concept: Michael Hankin
Set and Costume Design Realisation: Bella Rose Saltearn
Lighting Design: James Wallis
Sound Designer: Oliver Brighton
Casting Director: Daisy Hicks CGA
Cast: Natalie Abbott, Blake Bowden, Lincoln Elliott, James Haxby, Jay James-Moody, Madeleine Jones, Billie Palin
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever will be performed until 15 April 2023.