A breath of romantic fresh air is wafting through the Davenport Theatre on West 45th Street, where the intimate chamber musical DADDY LONG LEGS based on the should-be-more-famous novel by Jean Webster is percolating and spreading its innumerable charms. Letter writing – of the hand written type – might just become a la mode once again.
Thankfully this production helmed by director John Caird (also the author of the book) quietly simmers and then sparkles – having little to do with the film musical starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron – which was very loosely based on the same source material. Very loosely.
Mr. Caird has done a masterful job as has the entire creative team in bringing this sweet, honest, touching, witty and intelligent love story to life with a subtle score by Paul Gordon (music and lyrics) that slowly weaves its tunes to magical effect. By the end of Act II you will be enthralled and enthusiastically in love with love once again.
Jerusha Abbott (Megan McGinnis) – the oldest orphan of the John Grier Home is anonymously befriended by Jervis Pendleton (Paul Alexander Nolan) to further her education. Requiring that they never meet and that she update him monthly in the form of a letter that he need not answer.
It is through these letters (he eventually gives in answering but using an alias) that their relationship develops. We see her blossom from a naïve young lass who is hungry for knowledge to a confident young woman confiding in this man whom she has nicknamed Daddy Long Legs. In turn we see a man grappling with his feelings for her and how he slyly manages to make her dreams come true.
There are nods to A. R. Gurney’s LOVE LETTERS and the musicals ONCE and SHE LOVES ME in its thematic material but DADDY LONG LEGS stands on its own two feet. It’s a beautiful production of a small, quiet show with an enormous heart.
The scenic design – a wood paneled library, a desk, and various mobile trunks (that house some lovely costumes) by David Farley is just right.
Megan McGinnis with an infectious smile and a head full of cork screw curls is the perfect foil for Paul Alexander Nolan who has a gorgeous voice that is strong yet sensitive to his feelings. They are a perfect match. Especially when harmonizing in their duets arranged with great emotional impact by Brad Haak.
Let this show seep into your heart and allow yourself the time to readjust to its mellow pace. You will be rewarded with going home with the secret of happiness.
Photos: Jeremy Daniel
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