On a Clear Day You Can See Forever - Seymour Centre (NSW)
Presented by Squabbalogic & Seymour Centre. Book and Lyrics Alan Jay Lerner. Music Burton Lane.
Reviewed by Kat Pech Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Chippendale.
March 21st to April 15th, 2023.
- A long awaited production struggles to take full flight, despite its stellar cast and source material -
Opening night of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, presented by Squabbalogic and Seymour Centre, began with a short speech highlighting the gratitude of the team being able to put on this long-postponed performance. This was followed by a heartfelt Welcome to Country by Uncle Mike, highlighting the importance of art and community.
The production is a supernatural musical, adapted from earlier works, and follows Daisy/David Gamble (Jay James-Moody), who is caught up in someone else’s hypnosis session, going along with it in an attempt to quit nicotine. Along the way, his burgeoning feelings for Dr Mark Bruckner (Blake Bowden) lead to confusion and hilarity, as it’s revealed that within David lies the past life consciousness of Miss Welles, a no-nonsense woman from 1923, who is trying to break away from the limitations of her time; a sharp contrast to the marshmallowiness of David himself. Chaos ensues, as Dr Mark falls for Miss Welles, and David falls for Dr. Mark, causing a love-triangle within two bodies. Whether or not Miss Welles is real, or the combined fantasies of recently widowed Mark and dissatisfied David, was something I couldn’t quite decide.
The show was at times highly charming, and the queer spin added a breath of fresh air for what are often staid, heterosexual tropes. However, it did feel that many of the physical aspects of the queerness were played simply for laughs, rather than genuine representation. At times this worked; watching the bodies flip and change on stage intimately with each other without regard to gender was both funny and meaningful. Other times, it fell flat and felt mocking. The name doubling of David/Daisy also felt tiresome and unnecessary to his journey, adding nothing to the gender exploration.
Photos by David Hooley
The entire cast were fantastic performers and delivered their roles with conviction and drive; all were exceptionally well chosen, from the supporting ensemble (who engaged in fantastic character doubling throughout) to the three main characters. Madeline Jones as Melinda Welles was particularly striking, from the strength in her voice and acting, to her movement, which was both sensuous and amusing. A highlight was Jones’ and Moody’s perfectly in-sync vocals and movement as Melinda is revealed; their synchronicity was a thing of beauty that never missed a moment. The blending of their voices and movement created real elegance and believability for the person-in-a-person characters, as well as genuine hilarity. “Come Back To Me”, with excellent staging and choreography, performed by Bowden, was fantastic, as was the culmination of David’s and Mark’s journeys, and finished the show on a strong and joyous point.
The cast were at times let down by lacklustre choreography (though some was executed brilliantly), and ineffective costuming. David’s outfit felt tiresomely stereotypical, trying too hard to be obviously queer and off-beat, while Mark’s hair and suit combination didn’t blend well. Others were simply ill-fitting and unimpressive, though, it was clear where thought had been put into the colours and contrasts for doubling. Melinda’s cream linen suit on the other hand was intricately made, and felt genuine to both period and character.
The intimate space worked for audience engagement and allowed real resonance for the actors. However, the unnecessary and excessive smoke haze and lack of air conditioning made the intimate space feel suffocating at times. The set consisted of industrial office style shelves, which moved easily to transform from office to rooftop garden, and was utilised exceptionally well with the cast’s natural, flowing movements. Melinda’s use of the set was especially strong, as she claimed space and decadently lounged about. It created wonderful height and drama in a very simple way. Use of light and the addition of more and more flowers throughout meant it became a showcase in itself of the character’s journeys.
The highlights...were found in the excellent and strong cast, but they were let down by certain production choices.
The show was excellently performed, but after a while, it felt repetitive without creating enough character progression. Some of the songs felt like unnecessary, lengthy filler, or simply went on too long, repeating the same things and not utilising their impact. The excellence of the vocals performing them and the musical arrangements didn’t quite make up for this. Being an adaptation, it could’ve been revised to be tighter, sharper and snappier. The revisions section of the program does explain the reasoning behind song re-insertions and plot refiguring, however it seemed songs were only added, not removed. Other adaptation choices worked so well, it was obvious in depth thought and decision making had gone on in what to include; a little bit more was maybe needed for what not to. By the end, the length and repetition had me losing interest, which is a shame, as the ending itself happens quite quickly.
The highlights of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever were found in the excellent and strong cast, but they were let down by certain production choices and elements within the show itself that didn't mesh with the overall goal of the piece. The production itself is enjoyable overall if you don’t mind longer shows, and definitely full of chaos and charm.
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
By arrangement with ORiGiN Theatrical on behalf of The Burton Lane Estate