Like A Gentle Breeze, Play Comes And Goes

'Clear Day' Pleasant, But Unmemorable

July 23, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

The Pasadena Theater Company's production of "On a Clear Day You CanSee Forever" comes across a lot like the musical itself -- pleasant and appealing enough without being particularly memorable.

"On a Clear Day," which enjoyed a bit of success on Broadway before floppingon the screen, tells the story of a psychiatrist who accidentally performs a past-life regression on one of his patients who's come for hypnosis treatments to help her break a smoking habit.

As Dr. Mark Bruckner puts the bubbly, chatty, ditsy Daisy Gamble under, he finds Melinda, a spirited lass from 18th-century London whose soul has reincarnated itself as Daisy.

The good doctor's fixation with a 200-year-old immortal spirit stirs up a bit of professionaland personal conflict, as you can well imagine. And therein lies thetale.

Burton Lane's musical score has been deservedly forgotten. Only the title song and "Come Back to Me" entered the popular mainstream.

(Did Robert Goulet sing anything but "On a Clear Day" for thedecade after the show opened?)

The script is far snappier, and why not, since it's the work of Alan Jay Lerner of "My Fair Lady," "Camelot," "Brigadoon" fame. There are some particularly lovely digs at 20th-century psychological positivism. "What's with the sad little face?" says Mark to his brother and fellow shrink Dr. Conrad Bruckner. "Did a patient get well?"

Pasadena's production has a good many things going for it, not the least of which is the handsome set on whichthe show is staged. This is a very tough musical to mount, given allthe jumping back and forth between centuries, but the ramps and geometrical configurations create a terrific space for the action to takeplace. I was aware all along of how much layout helps pace and shapethis show. Somebody really earned their money on this one.

"On a Clear Day's" leads are somewhat uneven though ultimately positive.

Nina Desmond's Daisy is energetic, funny and sympathetic. Desmond also knows how to sell a dance number, unlike some of her troupe-mates whose glum faces made the choreography seem flat.

Her best momentsoccurred in "What Did I Have That I Don't Have," a wonderful song inwhich Daisy realizes that the doctor's interest is not really in herbut in Melinda, her English "soul mate." It's a very touching scene.

The switching to Melinda, however, gives Desmond problems. Verbally, she changes character well enough, but she doesn't have the vocalrange to attain the light, sweet tone the alter-role requires. Thereare some awkward moments.

Chuck Hastings is OK as the smitten shrink. But while energetic and bewildered enough, he moves somewhat stiffly and has a tendency to sing in a soupy legato that bleats a bit.

The supporting males are all great fun. Will Sherman is very funnyas Conrad, the "rational" brother psychiatrist, and Ron Wilder is quite --ing as the caddish Edward Moncrief whose lechery breaks Melinda's heart.

Steve Fogle is delightful as the dorky Warren Smith, Daisy's crassly materialistic fiance, and Frank Kollman is a bundle of Hellenic energy as Themistocles Kriakos, the billionaire who wants to find out who he's going to become in his next life so he can leave his money to himself.

The show's choral numbers sound quite good, with the ironic exception of the curtain call reprise of the title song, which completely fell apart Friday evening.

Once again, the Pasadena company gives us a zippy pit orchestra when so many others insist on canned recordings that accompany in name only. Live music is oneof the things that makes shows at Baldwin Hall as fun as they are.

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