Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the new musical Daddy Long Legs, currently playing at the Davenport Theatre across the street from my old apartment on West 45th Street. Paul Gordon (who also wrote the songs for the under-appreciated Jane Eyre) has provided a brilliant score for this two-hander love story. It is a play that deserves to be staged again and again.
The story comes from Jean Webster's 1912 novel of the same name, which chronicles the life of the orphan Jerusha Abbott, an orphan girl who is sponsored by an unknown benefactor to attend college, provided that she write him letters regularly and that she never know his name. She calls the philanthropist "Daddy Long Legs" in her letters and imagines him to be an old man, not realizing he is actually Jervis, a handsome young man who has taken a romantic interest in her.
Megan McGinnis dominates the play as Jerusha, winning the audience over with the opening number "The Oldest Orphan in the John Grier Home" and never letting them go after that. As Jervis, Paul Alexander Nolan has his back to the audience for much of the beginning of the piece, creating a sense of mystery, but after we get to know his character, he becomes just as interesting as Jerusha. His show-stopping number "Charity" in the second act shows a complexity only hinted at earlier in the piece, leading the audience to root for him as he strives to win over the woman he loves.
John Caird, who also directed and wrote the book for the musical Jane Eyre, does the same double-duty on Daddy Long Legs. It is largely to his credit that the final confrontation between the two characters (who have known each other for years through letters) is both moving and very, very funny.
If you're interested in seeing the play, you can find more information here:
Daddy Long Legs, The Musical