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On A Clear Day: A Sweet Fantasy

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HARRY CONNICK JR
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The revamped production of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever asks you to take in -- and accept -- a lot at once. As in the original, a psychiatrist named Dr, Mark Brucker, here played wonderfully by Harry Connick, Jr., falls in love with the spirit buried inside of one of his patients, who only emerges with hypnosis. The psychiatrist soon discovers that the spirit is that of a real former singer, Melinda Wells. If that already pushes the imagination to the limit, director Michael Mayer goes one further by having the patient played by a man (David Turner) in this production. When David Gamble goes under, Melinda comes alive inside of him, and, over time, so does the grieving Dr. Bruckner.

If you're willing to buy into both the play's premise and psychoanalysis, there's a lot in this show to love. Though it's set in 1974, the flashback sequences which Melinda (Jessie Mueller) dominates include sensational music that helps usher the audience back to another era - and another life. Chemistry between characters is hard to come by in this play since so much of it is focused on the lack of emotion or failure to come to terms with trauma. Still, through well-orchestrated musical and dance numbers we get to see Dr. Bruckner charm both David and Melinda, separately, and even one remarkable time when he dances with both of them at once.

The acting, too, is phenomenal. Because the main three characters are all so fractured and caught up in fantasies, it's the play's other characters who must step up as rational counterparts to help break them out of their spells. Sensibility comes in the form of David's partner, Warren (Drew Gehling), his best friend Muriel (Sarah Stiles), and Dr. Bruckner's colleague, Dr. Sharone Stein (Kerry O'Malley). Each of them carries his or her heavy burdens with striking ease, offering guidance, affection, and direction to the ones they see going astray. They aren't designed to have the most prominent or influential voices in the musical, but when they must get their true feelings off their chests they sure know how to belt them out. And since the audience identifies them as voices of reason, their contributions are always welcomed and refreshing to see and hear.

Connick, too, thrives when the spotlight is on him, and the show takes full advantage of his wonderful stage presence by having him escort the audience through the play, start to finish. It's done in the manner of a presentation before his peers, outlining his patient's disorders and difficulties. Once the music in the nearby orchestra starts playing, Connick is in his element, crooning some of the great songs from the original show. He's at his best when closest to the audience, seemingly miles apart from the other characters and from the beautiful throwback set. Similarly, Connick remains inside the same costume -- a dark suit -- throughout the show, while the rest of the cast changes yet another vibrant outfit whenever the opportunity presents itself.

He's a man distant and removed from the others, but still mightily close to the audience. And when Connick sings, you are taken away to another place so far out of your mind that you'll just let go.