Friday, June 18, 2010

Daddy Long Legs Comes to The Broad Stage

I first saw Daddy Long Legs when it premiered to sold-out crowds last year at Rubicon Theatre (read article here) and loved everything about it. The enchanting musical with gorgeous music by composer Paul Gordon is directed by Tony-award winner John Caird and is making its rolling premiere around the country.

Based on Jean Webster’s novel of the same name, it follows Jerusha Abbott, an orphan whose writing has caught the attention of one of the orphanage’s benefactors, a mysterious “Mr. Smith,” who decides to send her to college so she can continue her education. Part of the arrangement is that Jerusha must write him monthly letters detailing her progress, however he will not write back nor will he even read her letters. They will never meet and she will never know his true identity.

While writing her first letter to him she realizes she only knows three things about him – that he is tall, he is rich, and he hate girls. Since she cannot address the letters to Dear Mr. Girl Hater (which would be insulting to her), or Dear Mr. Rich Man (because that would be insulting to him…and he might not be rich for that much longer), she decides she’s pretty sure he’ll stay tall. And so, the letters will be addressed to Dear Daddy Long Legs.

As she begins college we become privy to her innermost thoughts, heartaches and longings. She reveals the embarrassment of not knowing things that other girls know, like that Michelangelo was a painter and not an archangel, and that Florence Nightingale is a singer and not a freshman, leaving her feeling like “Alice in Wonderland stranded in Vanity Fair…I’m so many years behind. I’m still so many years behind.” Her humanity speaks to us all, for who in their life hasn’t felt like an outsider, yearned for something better, or wanted to belong.

Jerusha may have a mind that is “an abyss of ignorance” as she says, however this young woman is quite extraordinary. She is imaginative, impetuous, inquisitive and determined to make something of herself, and her perspective of the world is utterly refreshing. How can you not help but fall in love with her?

Megan McGinnis is the heart of this two-person musical, continuing her luminous portrayal of Jerusha with an honesty and charm that will speak to the heart of every woman in the audience. She created the role of Beth in Little Women on Broadway and also did turns as Eponine in Les Miserables and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Here she lights up the stage in a role that was absolutely made for her.

Robert Adelman Hancock plays Jervis Pendleton, a.k.a. Daddy Long Legs and has matured beautifully in the role. Watching Hancock read Jerusha’s letters is great fun as he finds himself caught off guard by the thoughts she puts to page. He, too, is charming and awkward and endearing every step of the way. I’ll wager that if you haven’t shed a tear by the time he gets to “Charity” in the second act, you will there.

David Farley’s period-perfect library set acts as a variety of locations and even appears to dissolve as Paul Toben backlights it for outdoor scenes. Musical Director Laura Bergquist leads a six-piece orchestra in some of the most beautiful melodies you’ll hear anywhere.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching is “The Secret of Happiness” in which Jerusha says, “You know daddy, it isn’t the big troubles in life that require character. Anyone can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage. But to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh, I really think that requires spirit. I’ve discovered the secret of happiness is…”

If you want to know what that secret is, you’ll have to see the show for yourself. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

Daddy Long Legs runs through June 27th at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Tickets are available at or by calling the box office at 310-434-3200. For more information about the show go to

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