The Big-Money Risks
One great thing I forsee about being a theater blogger is that its going to force me to actually see more theater! Otherwise not too much to talk about! Not the worst thing I suppose. I admit I also had a bit of an ulterior motive when I purchased a ticket for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, but this is was the perfect excuse.
My Ulterior Motive
I can say that I am one of Jessie Mueller’s oldest fans. I was lucky enough to know her in college and it was clear then that she would be something special. In no way did she disappoint. She has a beautiful classic sound that reminds one of Judy Garland. Her presence is magnetic and she was able to maneuver through some campy dialogue with truth and grace. I would not be surprised if I see her performing Every Night at Seven, her “big break”solo at the top of the second acton the TONYs. In addition, the costume designer Catherine Zubin should be commended, she looked stunning – particularly in her final few scenes.
Now that THAT’s out of the Way…
On A Clear Day is certainly a challenging piece. I salute director Michael Mayer and new book writer Peter Parnell on their bold vision with this piece. They updated the piece, not to the present, but to the 1970s. It allowed for some more heavy exploration of the ideals that were just coming to light during that time period. In order to really do this, they changed the second lead from a woman to a gay man. It has been met with a mixed response. Though I was not 100% convinced that all of the narrative questions had been answered, I think it most certainly shone a new light on the relationships and altered the stakes in what must have been a significant way. At this point I also want to say that for the most part I think the cast did a commendable job. It is so common with these older pieces that the material is rather campy. Its so hard to navigate with any truth. They embraced the campiness and walked the fine line between commitment and overdoing it. That is no small feat. It becomes so easy to editorialize on your own work and that judgment can certainly bleed through. Not in this case.
The Courage Factor
I again want to say thank you to the director and the producers for taking a risk. Sure they tried to sweeten the pot with a star. But he was at least a proven actor and musician, not the flavor of the month from American Idol. They did not back a “reimagined” movie. They put a contemporary twist that added a new dimension on how one defines love. It may not always be successful, but
its important to push the envelope and support new or bold theater, even when its a revival. I also appreciate that this show was actually theatrical. By that I mean that there were no overwhelming special effects, and it really gave the sense that this was a live experience (albeit from somewhat of a different era). In that respect I think that is the direction theater needs to be going, so it was nice to see that other people still support it, both with their faith and their dollars.
Now the Bad News
The show’s final performance is January 29 so if you want to see what I’m talking about you’ll have to hurry. I can in all honesty give it a rather mixed review, withas I said, Jessie Mueller bringing up the denominator quite a bit. But if you can get cheap tickets, which you should be able to since its closing. I’d say it would be worth it if for nothing else to watch and consider what new material
the writer/director has added to the work. Because if you leave the theater thinking or even better talking, then theater has done its job.
Well? Has anyone else seen it? Let us know what you think.