Let me preface my review of the World Premiere production of the new musical, “Daddy Long Legs” now onstage at the Northlight in Skokie, by stating that this is an outstanding showcase for the two talented actors, but that I for one found the story to be just a little long an dwhile the music was beautiful, it was also very repetitious. Perhaps, the writers John Caird ( book) and music and lyrics (Paul Gordon) might want to consider making this a 90-100 minute show instead of the 2 plus hours. The story is based on the novel by Jean Webster, dealing with a young woman, Jerusha Abbott ( the charming and beautiful Megan McGinnis) who is one of many young ladies in an orphanage. She is called in to the office where she is told that a benefactor has offered to pay her way into college so that she can further her education and her skills. She knows not who he is, except that he wants to be called Mr. Smith ( deftly handled by Robert Adelman Hancock) and that their only form of communication be through letters.
Through these letters, Jerusha shares her life with Mr. Smith and we share with him these moments of growth for her. The time period of the story is the early 1900’s, so having a young lady get a university education is something rare. At the university she meets and studies with young ladies of wealthy roots, who are unaware of her previous life. As it turns out, “Mr. Smith” is not what she believes him to be, a fat old man that is very tall ( which is why she refers to him as “Daddy Long Legs”) but in fact a young wealthy man who is related to one of her roommates. As the story progresses and the years go by, “Mr. Smith” who in reality is Jervis Pendleton finds himself falling in love with Jerusha which of course makes it impossible for him to allow her to know his true identity. In the end, after a few ups and downs , the truth comes out and they are at last together.
Directed by John Caird ( winner of the Tony Award for his direction of “Les Miserables”) uses the stage and the fantastic set designed by David Farle, who also did the costume design, to perfection, This is a massive stage that works as several locations with Jervis’ study/office always in full view and while we observe and listen to the 24 letters/songs in the production, we do get to feel as if we are the fly on the wall watching these two characters realize what is taking place. It is not often that a two person musical with this many songs is created and except for the length and many of teh melodies sounding like others, this is a beautiful “chamber piece” that should only be done in an intimate venue such as the Northlight at The Northshore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie.
Musical director Laura Bergquist and her five musicians handle the elegant music so that we are able to hear every word of each of the letters. While there are no truly memorable songs, I was hit by the song that ended the first act,”What Does She Mean by Love” and the charming “The Secret of Happiness” as songs that have a great impact on the story and we the audeince as well. If you are looking for something new and different and want to experience a “chamber piece” prior to it making its eventual trip to New York, you will enjoy this delightful ( albeit a bit long) musical story about communications, the art of letter writing ( now almost gone because of technology) and the art of living and loving.
“Daddy Long egs” will continue at Northlight through October 24th with performances as follows:
Wednesday at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ( except of October 13th)
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m,Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $35-$55 and are available at the box office located at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd ( just south of Golf Road), by phone at 847-673-6300 or online at www.northlight.org Young people special (25 qand under, with ID) $10
There is plenty of free parking