Friday, October 23, 2009

An Enchanting Daddy Long Legs for Rubicon Theatre

Daddy Long Legs

This is my kind of musical. I love beautiful music, characters that take me along with them on their journey of discovery, and a story that tugs at my heart. This enchanting world premiere musical at Rubicon Theatre contains all of that, and much more.


Writers Paul Gordon (music & lyrics) and John Caird (book) have transformed Jean Webster’s novel, Daddy Long Legs, into a heartwarming and poignant musical that tells the story of Jerusha Abbott, an 18 year old girl who has grown up at the John Grier Home for orphans.

When a trustee of the home reads an essay she has written and sees promise in her writing, he offers to send her to college to continue her education. His only requirements are that she must write him monthly letters, even though he will not write her back, and that she will never know his identity. She sees him once in the shadows and nicknames him “Daddy Long Legs.”

Beyond that, all she can do is imagine the rest of the details with a wit and fascination that make her wonder…is he old or is he very old? Is his hair black or white, thinning or balding? This is a girl you can’t help but fall in love with, especially when brought to life by Megan McGinnis. She has a voice like a nightingale and in this vivacious star-turn of a performance, she is magnificent. Her honest portrayal of the intelligent, self-determined young woman is inspiring and filled with layers of emotional depth.

The other half of this two person musical is Robert Adelman Hancock, who takes on the role of Jervis Pendleton, a.k.a. Daddy Long Legs. Becoming the benefactor to less fortunate students such as Jerusha is his attempt at soothing his guilty conscience over being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The terms for his help have always been the same and he has never before become involved in the lives of those he has helped. This time, however, he finds himself accidentally, unwittingly and completely enthralled by Jerusha and her letters.

Hancock workshopped the role of Jervis in Daddy Longs Legs as part of Rubicon’s Plays-in-Progress development program and does a fine job of bringing him to life in this full production. His dashing good looks and warm lyric baritone voice make him a perfect complement to McGinnis’ spirited presence onstage. Through their eyes we witness the roller coaster of emotions that occur in a relationship between two people, whether it be friends, lovers, associates, or even between two people who have never really met.

Musical Director Laura Bergquist leads a six-piece orchestra in Paul Gordon’s score full of beautiful melodies. Gordon was nominated for a Tony Award for Jane Eyre, directed by John Caird, and also wrote the musical Emma, (which I had seen at NAMT, and premiered at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto in 2007). Caird is best known for his London and Broadway creations of Les Misérables and Nicholas Nickleby, which won Tony and Olivier Awards.

Daddy Long Legs runs through November 8, 2009 at Rubicon Theatre in Ventura. Tickets are available at www.rubicontheatre.org, or by calling the box office at 805-667-2900.

Whether Jerusha is thoughtfully pondering the secret of happiness or humorously observing the behavior of men, “they purr if you rub them the right way; they spit if you don’t,” you'll find yourself thinking about your own life in a way you may not have before. I say don’t miss this charming musical, sure to become a classic favorite.

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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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