Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On A Clear Day (v.2)

In 1965 Daisy Gamble flashed back to her past life as Melinda Wells. This allowed one actress to play two roles but the plot gave them little to do.

In 2011 Daisy was rewritten as David Gamble, a gay man with a past life as a female jazz singer. Was this a terrible idea? Not necessarily.
  • Is David in the closet at the start of the show? Or at least insecure about his sexuality?
  • Melinda was at one point written for an African American actress. Did the adversity she faced in the 1940’s frighten or inspire David’s life as a gay man in the 1970’s?
  • What journey do these two characters make over the course of the show? What does David learn from his past as Melinda to carry him into his future?

The writers didn’t answer these questions, instead choosing to focus on David’s relationship to Dr. Mark Bruckner, a widower who becomes infatuated with Melinda despite her voice coming from another man. Was this a terrible idea?... Not… necessarily…
  • Is Dr. Bruckner bisexual? If he’s always identified as straight, how does he respond to his feelings for David/Melinda? Does he begin to admire in David the qualities he admired in Melinda?
  • Will a revised libretto have him conduct his “study” of David in a more professional manner? Or keep it as sketchy as it was in the original and call him out for it?

Then Harry Connick Jr. was cast as Dr. Mark Bruckner. This was a terrible idea. The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones wrote: “in order to work, it requires a little sexual complexity on the part of Bruckner (who is now loving a woman through a man), an ambivalence that Connick (unlike the omnisexual Hugh Jackman, playing right across the street in "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway") does not embody” The show allowed him to croon several ballads but the issues of sexuality were kept as far away from the star as possible.

Jessie Mueller made an impressive Broadway debut as Melinda, and quickly moved to the Tony winning role of Carole King, but the new libretto gave her even less to do than her predecessor. Melinda wants to be a singer, makes a winning debut, then dies young. What does this mean for David? Apparently very little.

After the critical drubbing the show received there is a chance that Peter Parnell’s libretto will vanish. That would be a shame. Encores has already produced On a Clear Day with Kristin Chenoweth but I’d love to see someone produce the two versions in rep and cast some actors who were willing to ramp up the (bi) sexual tension.

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