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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lovely, Low-Key On A Clear Day At NCTC: Barbra Would No Doubt Approve

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge Melissa O'Keefe sings across the decades. - NCTC/LOIS TEMA
  • NCTC/Lois Tema
  • Melissa O'Keefe sings across the decades.
New Conservatory Theater Center offers a low-key, lovely production of the classic musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.

On A Clear Day 
has long been a show in search of an audience — though audiences seem to love it, it has never fared well at the box office, not when it opened on Broadway in 1965 or when legendary diva Barbra Streisand starred in a 1970 film version

In NCTC's production, superbly directed by Ed Decker, Streisand's Daisy Gamble is rewritten as David Gamble, a gay man. The songs are all there, and the premise and plot of the show remain the same. 

Nerdy David lives in Greenwich Village, circa 1973. He's hesitant to commit to boyfriend Warren — David appears to be more interested in his flowers than in the BF. In an attempt to give up smoking, David goes to see Dr. Mark Bruckner, New York City's sexiest psychiatrist-slash-hypnotherapist.

Past life regression with the hottie shrink reveal that David is the reincarnation of Melinda, a big band singer who was killed in a plane crash 30 years earlier. David falls in love with Dr. Mark, who seems to be returning his affections. But in reality the doc, a desperately lonely guy who can't let go of his late wife, has fallen in love with the ghostly Melinda.

click to enlarge Chris Morrell (top), Melissa O'Keefe (center), William Giammona (bottom) - NCTC/LOIS TEMA
  • NCTC/Lois Tema
  • Chris Morrell (top), Melissa O'Keefe (center), William Giammona (bottom)
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever is a simple, sweet tale. Decker's bare bones staging enables the story to move back-and-forth between the 1940s and 1970s with ease — this, combined with a superb cast make for an engaging evening at the theater. Transforming Daisy into a gay man was a stroke of genius — this plot twist gives the story an edge that the Streisand film needed.

The show's book poses questions about gender roles and sexuality, while also underscoring the need for each of us to be true to who we are and to learn when its time to move on. Yet On A Clear Day is never heavy-handed — there are several in-joke references to Streisand that are hilarious. There's also a running gag regarding a hypnotized David who removes his shirt whenever he hears the word "Wednesday" — the packed opening night audience roared with laughter and applauded approvingly.

Chris Morrell is wonderful as David — the actor's adorably nerdy and boyish demeanor recalls Streisand's own performance in the role. Melissa O'Keefe is equally fine as his female alter-ego: The lady's lovely pipes are impressive. And it's easy to see how David could fall in love with his doctor, played by the handsome William Giammona. This superb thespian hits all the right notes as a straight man who feigns attraction to a gay man so he can reach out to the woman lurking inside his patient. 

On A Clear Day includes an amusing if somewhat thought-provoking scene in which the three leads dance together cheek-to-cheek. David thinks he's dancing with Mark, who in turn thinks he's dancing with Melinda. Through song, dance, humor and fantasy the actors paint a portrait of the gender fluidity which is rapidly becoming today's social norm.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, through June 12, $30-$40, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave., 415-861-8972 or                   

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