The new world premiere production of "Daddy Long Legs" which opened September 25, 2010 at Northlight Theatre has good bones. Penned and adapted by John Caird, co-creator of Broadway's Tony award-winning "Les Miserables," the old-fashioned feel-good story tugs at your heartstrings. The tale has delighted readers and audiences alike since Jean Webster's novel, "Daddy Long-Legs" was published in 1912. Its many reincarnations include a 1915 stage production, a silent film in 1919, a talkie in 1931 and the popular 1955 movie with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.
The current production of "Daddy Long Legs" is more like the novel than the movie. The story begins with orphan Jerusha Abbott at age 18 as she is told she will have the opportunity to leave the orphanage and study at the university due to the generosity of an anonymous benefactor. In return, all she is required to do is write him of her progress and expect no communication from him. Through her grateful letters she shares, not only her studies but her life, with her mysterious benefactor who she names "Daddy Long Legs," or "Daddy" for short. As the story progresses her benefactor gets caught up in her letters and finds a way to meet her without her knowing who he is.
This new Northlight production of "Daddy Long Legs,"
was first staged in 2009 at Rubicon
Theatre Company in Ventura, California. Along with its first-rate adaptor-director, Caird, it has an amiable musical score by Tony nominated composer, Paul Gordon, whose eclectic and successful career in theater, film and pop music includes the music and lyrics to the 2000 Broadway musical "Jane Eyre."
The cast of Megan McGinnis (Jerusha Abbott) and Robert Adelman Hancock (Jervis Pendelton) is outstanding. If you only go to see female lead, Megan McGinnis, already a highly-acclaimed actress who's starred on Broadway as Eponine in "Les Miserables" and as Beth March in Broadway's "Little Woman" you won't be disappointed. Hancock, a credible actor, starred as Sky on the National Tour of "Mamma Mia" and in James Joyce's "The Dead" at the Court Theatre. His television credits include appearances on the soap opera "Guiding Light."
The staging stays the same throughout the show. One part of the stage is the wood-paneled library of Jervis Pendelton, raised above the other section of the stage that serves as the orphanage and later the university where Jerusha pens her letters to her benefactor. Although the staging was adequate, it left Jervis Pendelton too much in the background. The vocals and duets of the two actors blended beautifully but with a live orchestra could have been exceptional. With some tweaks here and there, "Daddy Long Legs" could really go places. The Chicago premiere of "Daddy Long Legs" at Northlight Theatre is definitely a crowd pleaser. At this point, it is not a showstopper. Could it be? Perhaps? Could it be Broadway bound? Possibly? As it is, the audience that I saw it with thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like your theatrical experience mixed with a few tears, sentimental beautifully sung vocals, and like to leave the show feeling good, Daddy is your ticket.
Tickets for Daddy Long Legs, $35-55, are available by phone, 847 673 6300. Young Adult tickets (25 and under) are $10 (one per person with valid ID).
Box Office and Theatre.
The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays 12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.
Curtain times are: Tuesdays at 7:30pm (September 28 and October 19 only); Wednesdays at 1:00pm and 7:30pm (except October 13); Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 2:30pm (except September 18) and 8:00pm; Sundays at 2:30pm and 7:00pm (except September 26, when it will begin at 6pm, and October 3 and 24).
Northlight introduces two new special event series in conjunction with each production and announces the return of Backstage with BJ. All events are free for subscribers and ticket holders.
Casual Friday is an informal evening of conversation and socializing for the after-work crowd. The evening includes a pre-show cash bar, mingling with artists, and a short presentation and Q&A, followed by the evening's performance at 8:00 pm. Casual Friday for Daddy Long Legs will be held September 24 at 6:30 pm. No reservations required.
Salon Series is a series of panel discussions led by local experts for audience members to gain deeper insight into each of the five plays--including historical context, playwright background and influences and much more. Salon Series is held at noon prior to select Sunday matinee performances. The Salon for Daddy Long Legs will be held at 12:00 pm on October 10. No reservations required.
Backstage with BJ is a mid-day discussion with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offering behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal. Backstage with BJ for Daddy Long Legs will be held September 17 at 12:00 pm and will last approximately one hour. Reservations are required, 847.679.9501 x3555.
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