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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

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The Writing of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Commentary and writing tips by Noel Katz

"Let's start at the very beginning," goes an Oscar Hammerstein lyric. But that doesn't apply to musical theatre writing. In certain cases, it might be better to start by focusing on how the show is going to end.

If you tapped a viewer on the shoulder fifteen minutes before On a Clear Day" ends and asked, "How are you enjoying this?" the answer might be "I'm loving it. "However, as the final curtain falls, it's a uniquely disappointing experience. Alan Jay Lerner has set up an intriguing dramatic situation; unfortunately, he failed to figure out how to extract the leads from their impossible romantic complication and provide a satisfying and happy ending.

But the journey to that insufficient conclusion is a well-wrought and enjoyable one. Daisy, a gawky young woman from the suburbs, visits a psychiatrist to end her addiction to cigarettes. Under hypnosis, out comes Melinda, an 18th century picaresque Englishwoman; Daisy is her reincarnation. Fascinated and then enraptured, the shrink falls in love with the woman he can only talk to while his unattractive patient is hypnotized.

This set-up lets Lerner and composer Burton Lane contrast the sweeping romance of 18th century London with comically prosaic contemporary New York. Daisy and her fiancé sing a jazz waltz to the joys of maturing retirement bonds. Melinda is wooed with a grand ballad in 6/4 time: "She Wasn't You." When the shrink sings about the past-life woman he's fallen for, it's a sweeping minor-key waltz, "Melinda." His delight, listening to his patient's tales of long ago, shows that he really belongs in the 18th century. Twentieth century Daisy holds no attraction, which leads to one of the great plot-specific torch songs of all time, "What Did I Have That I Don't Have?"Daisy wishes she had the allure of Melinda, her previous incarnation.

Some of the failings of On a Clear Day" are ironic. Clearly, Lerner and Lane set out to write a romantic musical (like Lerner's first hit, Brigadoon, contrasting our century with two centuries ago). But the situation the characters are in means they don't interact in a traditionally romantic way. We see a psychologist standing and listening to a girl on a couch (or chair, actually), so the romance has no kissing, no dancing "none of that love stuff we expect from a musical.

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On A Clear Day You Can See Forever DVDOn a Clear Day You Can See Forever (DVD) from Amazon.com 1970 film version starring Barbara Streisand. Directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Cast Recordings

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Original CastOn A Clear Day You Can See Forever: The Original Broadway Cast Recording from Amazon.com Starring Barbara Harris and John Cullum. Songs include: Overture, Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here!, Tosy And Cosh, On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever), On The S.S. Bernard Cohn, Don't Tamper With My Sister, She Wasn't You, Melinda, When I'm Being Born Again, What Did I Have That I Don't Have?, Wait Till We're Sixty-Five, Come Back To Me, and Finale

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever SoundtrackOn A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970 Film) from Amazon.com Songs include: Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here, Main Title, Love With All The Trimmings, Melinda, Go To Sleep, He Isn't You, What Did I Have That I Don't Have, Come Back To Me, On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever), and On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)

Sheet Music

"On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

"Come Back To Me" from Musicnotes.com Instant digital download sheet music.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Vocal Score) from Amazon.com

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