Review "Daddy Long Legs": Enchanting Coming-of-Age Romance

Northlight Theatre presents

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DADDY LONG LEGS

At North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie

Based on the novel by Jean Webster

Book by John Caird

Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon

Conducted by Julie McBride

Thru October 24th

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Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission.

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

'The secret to happiness is just to enjoy the ride.'  Northlight Theatre presents the new musical DADDY LONG LEGS from the Tony and Olivier Award-winning director of "Les Miserables" and the creators of "Jane Eyre."   Set in 1908, an orphan is mysteriously awarded a scholarship to college.  Her benefactor is willing to pay all expenses including a monthly stipend.  In return, she must write a monthly letter updating him on her education without expectations of a response.  Having only seen a tall silhouette of the anonymous supporter, Jerusha begins a four year, one-sided dialogue to her nicknamed 'Daddy Long Legs.'  She writes to who she believes is an older gentleman about her fears and hopes.   'Daddy' aka Jervis -to everyone but Jerusha- is a young, rich, detached philanthropist. A silent observer to Jerusha's awakening to life, Jervis becomes attached!   Not surprisingly, the audience does too!  DADDY LONG LEGS is a simply complicated, emotionally intellectual, altruistic reward.

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It's all about Jerusha and Daddy with intermittent visits from Jervis.  Although the two performers are on stage together for the entire show, they are primarily alone.  Jerusha writes.  Daddy reads.  Director John Caird stages it as a series of monologues directly to the audience providing for an oddly intimate connection.  As Daddy falls in love with Jerusha, the audience does too!  Who couldn't?  Megan McGinnis (Jerusha) illuminates the stage.   Is it her character or is it her presence?  McGinnis is this adorable humble nobody that in fact is a talented singing somebody.  McGinnis endears the audience with animated soliloquies of vulnerability and defiance.  Her singing, even with a momentary faulty microphone, continually fills the room with a shiny brightness similar to kids on Christmas morning.  Robert Adelman Hancock  (Jervis) delivers a reserved and pensive performance.  He does need somebody.  His solo songs seem not quite complete.   He's at his best singing in duet with McGinnis.  In harmony or completing each other's lines, their songs have a charming, old-fashion romantic quality. Even with limited face to face interactions, the love grows from intellectual curiosity to mutual admiration to emotional outbursts.   Hancock reacts to a suitor rival with hilarious jealous edicts via a 4th letter writer, Daddy's secretary.       

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The set and costumes are designed by David Farley.  Books and trunks are strewn across the library-like set.  The trunks are multi-purpose as Jerusha accesses a skirt, bed or textbook without leaving the stage.   The writing is on the wall.  Projective script or typed dates chronicle the happenings.  As Jerusha and Jervis lives transform with the impact of new possibilities, the wooden set opens up to reveal windows and the world outside.  It's not dramatic.  It's the simple movement to open up shutters and let the light in.  This easy task defines the essence of the show.  One gesture will change lives forever.  This significant revelation illustrated in an enchanting coming-of-age romance makes me a little misty.  'I've discovered the secret of happiness is living in the now.' 

 

 

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