Melissa Errico in ON A CLEAR DAY and at Feinstein's - New York City Article
“On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”
Music by Burton Lane
Lyric by Alan Jay Lerner
Adapted & Directed by Charlotte Moore
The Irish Repertory Theatre
132 W 22nd St
Through September 6
Melissa Errico & Ryan Silverman
Feinstein’s / 54 Below
254 West 54th St
Monday August 6 & Tuesday August 7
As far as your big time, name-above-the-title divas go (your Patti Lupones, your Kelli O’Haras, your Christine Ebersoles), Melissa Errico is not only among the most sublimely talented and consistently entertaining, but the most down to Earth. In the last few years alone, she’s delighted New Yorkers to three intimate and highly enjoyable productions of iconic musicals (Finian’s Rainbow, Kiss Me, Kate, and now On a Clear Day, as well as several memorable solo shows at Feinstein’s and Birdland, a string of thoughtful articles in the New York Times, and, soon, a new Sondheim album.
Miss Errico has a history with composer Burton Lane (she’s starred in Finian’s at the Irish Rep twice - so far) and librettist Alan Jay Lerner (having played Eliza Doolittle on the second-most-recent Broadway production of My Fair Lady) so On a Clear Day is a natural. As far as legendary Broadway shows go, this 1965 work is generally described as “troubled,” though not to the same extent as Lerner’s previous piece, Camelot (1960), which may be the most notable example of a show that’s universally considered both “troubled” and a masterpiece (though Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is surely a contender).
Subsequent revivals of Clear Day have all made their own attempts to deal with the apparent “trouble” - the 2011 Broadway revival gave us Harry Connick Jr., as the manliest leading man ever to play a psychiatrist and the young Jessie Mueller - two moves which we all applauded. However, the changes in the book in that production eliminated one of the show’s strongest elements - the remarkable dual leading lady at the center. Thus the major contribution of the Irish Rep production is the restoration of the Daisy Gamble / Melinda Welles character, which is a very good thing - it’s just not On a Clear Day without her (or without them, as it were). Director Charlotte Moore has refocused the libretto so that it now focuses on the Daisy-Melinda character to the exclusion of almost everyone else - now gone are such extraneous characters as Daisy’s boyfriend, her brother, and a Greek shipping magnate.
The result is that the whole works has now been reshaped largely into a vehicle for Ms. Errico, and, since she’s playing two characters who both require a lot of dramatic space, this is also a wise move - especially since the Irish Rep productions, are, famously, intimate rather than epic. Ms. Errico’s performance of both Daisy and Melinda is so strong that, within just a few minutes, she’s able to make those of us who aren’t Shirley MacLaine believe in reincarnation - at least for the two hours and the two acts that the play runs. The creators and Ms. Errico have given us two remarkably clearly defined characters: Melinda doesn’t talk like Daisy, doesn’t think like her, doesn’t communicate the same way with her body language like her, doesn’t walk or dress like her - and her musical numbers are so different that they could come from two different shows. So much so, that, by the end of the first Act, I actually stopped believing in reincarnation again - Melissa and Daisy are so completely inapposite of each other that they couldn’t possibly be the same person, even separated by 200 years.
My major reservation about the Irish Rep Clear Day is that, by necessity, it had to cut the memorable comic song "When I'm Being Born Again" and the character who sings it - without them, the second act seems very thin. (It could almost be condensed into a rather long, 100-minute single act.) Ms. Errico should consider making it up to us by including that number in her show (even though it isn’t even sung by her character(s) to begin with) this week at Feinstein’s / 54 Below: this a set of solos and also duos co-starring the actor and baritone (known to Broadway audiences from Side Show). Feinstein’s is spotlighting duos this month - the other must-catch-event being the combination of Christine Ebersole and the man himself, Mr. Feinstein.
At the end of Act Two of Clear Day, I fully expected Daisy and Dr. Mark (the excellent Stephen Bogardus) to fly off together to Brigadoon - which, again like Camelot, is another dash of Alan Jay Lerner mysticism. With a force of nature like Ms. Errico, you just can’t help but believe in impossible things.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)