Hideous to look at and hard on the ears despite star Harry Connick Jr., the Broadway revival of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” is dead on arrival.
It would be DOA even without the pandering “re-conceiving” by director Michael Mayer that’s turned a third-tier show into a disaster.
In the early 1960s, Alan Jay Lerner (whose “My Fair Lady” partner Frederick Loewe had retired) tapped into the popularity of stories about reincarnation and extra sensory perception. He ended up writing the songs -- the best of which are an honorable ‘B’ -- with Burton Lane, while writing a book that didn’t make sense.
The revision by Mayer and playwright Peter Parnell makes less sense.
Connick plays a by-the-book Freudian psychoanalyst whose patient, inadvertently put into a hypnotic trance, becomes a high-spirited woman from the 1940s. The widowed shrink continues treating the spellbound patient in order to pursue a growing romance with the mysterious siren.
In 1964, the patient was played by Broadway’s sexiest star, Barbara Harris (and in the 1970 film by Barbra Streisand).
Today (the setting has been moved up to 1974) the patient is played by David Turner, whose unrelenting boyishness is beyond annoying. The sex change heightens the show’s yuck-factor exponentially. A straight shrink taking advantage of a gay man who regresses under hypnosis to the vivacious woman he once was? Creepy.
Third-tier musicals have their place, sometimes producing hidden gems or giving newcomers a chance to shine. No such luck here.
Connick is in his Sinatra-lite mode; the singing is passable but he marks time until the final scene, which has some juice. As the woman he falls for, Jessie Mueller, has some fine moments, especially in the lovely “Ev’ry Night at Seven,” one of several numbers interpolated from other Lerner and Lane scores.
But they’re surrounded by a shrill, modestly talented cast reduced to frugging about Christine Jones’s Op Art sets, in Catherine Zuber’s atypically unsightly costumes. The uninspired retro choreography is by JoAnn M. Hunter. Whenever the dancing stops, Mayer plants his leads down stage to stare and sing directly at us. He’s got our attention -- for all the wrong reasons.
At the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: (no stars)
What the Stars Mean: **** Do Not Miss *** Excellent ** Good * So-So (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)