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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Skylight's 'Daddy Long Legs' Weaves a Web of Romance

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Skylight Music Theatre recently adapted its name. Along with it comes a world premiere of another adaptation: Daddy Long Legs. Based on the 1912 novel by Jean Webster (which became a musical comedy in 1955 starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron), this staged musical has been given a new and wonderful life thanks to the well-paced direction and well-written adaptation by John Caird (responsible for Les Misérables, among other theatrical mega-hits) and the perfect-for-Broadway tunes by Paul Gordon (who did the music and lyrics).

With a nod to Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, Daddy Long Legs tells the story of a wealthy American bachelor, Jervis Pendleton, who anonymously pays for the college education of a female orphan, Jerusha Abbott. The grateful but headstrong Jerusha writes letters to her mysterious benefactor, although he never responds. Well, almost. Love does find a way into the seemly impervious Jervis and the pair of outsiders finds happiness—finally—when they meet face to face.

Call it sentimental and old-fashioned, but it works in its own charming, sweet and innocent way as the story unfolds through a series of letters told and sung back and forth.

That success is due in large part to the two-member cast who originated the roles (and who can also be heard on the soundtrack). As Jerusha, Megan McGinnis simply shines throughout the two hours and 15 minutes (including 20-minute intermission), her note and pitch perfect. As Jervis, Robert Adelman Hancock has the greater challenge of defining the enigmatic “Daddy Long Legs” (Jerusha's nickname for the unseen mentor). But he manages to convey the transformation admirably as we watch Jervis slowly fall head over heels in love with his protégé.

And could it be any other way? With Daddy Long Legs, we certainly hope these two live—and love—happily ever after.

Daddy Long Legs
runs through April 1 in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. For more information, call 414-291-7800 or visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org.
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