After 10 shows in a row PLUS Thanksgiving and the Macy's parade we finally got a day off so I journeyed to the Upper East Side for lunch at the Stumble Inn
a sports bar with a very nice line in cheeseburgers. Our dear mates Jack Donahue and Rich Carson have an interest in this place so we happily munched as they regaled me with tales of their recent luxury cruise to Athens, Santorini and Venice.
Jack has two Sunday Brunch concerts coming up at the Blue Note on December 18th if you happen to be in town. He is not to be missed. It turned out Jack and I both had tickets for ON A CLEAR DAY later that evening so he invited me to join him and some friends for dinner before the show. We parted ways and I headed up to 103rd St to the Museum of the City of New York.
This was his suite at the Plaza. Inspired, I went to the Plaza!
There in the foyer was the Eloise Christmas tree.
I had a quick coffee in the Food Hall downstairs and then crossed the road to the Paris cinema where a session was about to begin of...
A silent film about Hollywood's silent era. Beautifully produced (French/Belgian), written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring his regular collaborator Jean Dujardin with a soundtrack (strongly suggestive of Bernard Hermann) that will sell millions, it's a gentle movie with some wonderfully funny set pieces that is ultimately very moving in its portrayal of a man who is literally unable to express himself through words; a silent screen star who cannot emotionally make the transition to the "Talkies".
I became aware of Jean Dujardin in 2009 while we were in Paris where he is an enormously popular star of a nightly tv comedy series. It's good to know his career will now be international.
After hitting the stores on 5th Avenue to photograph the window displays I made my way to Angus McIndoe's restaurant to meet Jack, his friend the VP and senior book editor at Threshold Editions Mitchell Ivers and his partner (turns out I subscribe to his YouTube channel. The world gets smaller...) and another guest who I know, the marvellous actor and singer Bob Stillman who I'd introduced myself to after seeing his performance in HELLO AGAIN.
From our table on the second floor I could see Mr. Connick gazing in at me from the theatre next door.
ON A CLEAR DAY is still in previews and undergoing significant changes but the word has been very mixed so I was anxious to see for myself what was going on.
The most radical change since the show's original production in 1965 (and the Streisand film in 1970) is turning the leading lady Daisy Gamble into a gay man named Davey. And where Daisy was the reincarnation of an English woman from the 1700s, Davey is now the reincarnation of a 1940s jazz singer named Melinda Wells.
The breakout star of the evening is Jessie Mueller making her Broadway debut as Melinda. Uncannily reminiscent of Liza Minnelli in NEW YORk, NEW YORK, this actress/singer has starred in SHE LOVES ME and GUYS & DOLLS in her native Chicago. Her first number, "Open Your Eyes" (from ROYAL WEDDING) well and truly announces that a star is born and in the second act she stops the show cold with "Every Night at Seven".
I was also happily surprised by David Turner as Davey who retains all of Daisy's songs and carries all the comedy.Also terrific is Drew Gehling as Davey's boyfriend Warren who gets to sing Streisand's outrageous "Love With All The Trimmings" from the movie only recast as a very funny 70s pop song with a not-so-subtle nod to Barbra herself. In fact, the ghost of Barbra hovers over the show more than once!
The staging of a love song involving the central trio actually drew applause at one ingenious moment and the first act curtain caused a gasp of astonishment. I had a very jolly evening but the man next to me was obviously in the depths of hell. The gay angle is going to be a difficult sell, the audience is seeing their adored Mr. Connick cast in the role of a grieving widower rather than his familiar comfortable image, and the entire production is set in 1974 with all its attendant flower power imagery and disco choreography. At times I felt as if I was watching the original production of APPLAUSE. But the performances should carry it through and it is certainly a very brave attempt to bring a famously flawed project back to life for a new generation. And Jessie Mueller is truly a knockout.