Daddy Long Legs – Smock Alley – Review by Frank L.
Finished on 24th March
Created by John Caird and Paul Gordon
John Caird adapted Jean Webster’s 1912 epistolary novel of the same name from which Paul Gordon then composed the music and wrote the lyrics to create this musical. It tells the story of Jerusha Abbott who is the oldest orphan in the John Grier Home. Hers is not a happy lot until one day the austere principal informs her that an unknown benefactor has chosen to send her to college. The benefactor wishes to remain anonymous but has one condition, she must write a letter once a month telling him about her life. There will be no reply to these mails. She creates for him, with her inventive mind, a name “Daddy Long Legs” and assumes that he has to be old. The storyline follows her career in college over the ensuing years as described in her monthly letters and the reaction to them by “Daddy Long Legs”. But her life also includes one Jervis Pendleton, a comparatively young uncle of one of her roomates. She progresses through college to graduation and the time comes when the reality of her benefactor will emerge.
Jerusha is played by Róisín Sullivan and Jervis by Eoin Cannon. There are twenty-two songs set over two acts and the voices of Sullivan and Cannon complement each other as they sing their various solos and duets. Sullivan has by far the larger part and she makes the conversion from young girl in the orphanage to sophisticated, modern female graduate convincingly. Cannon has the looks and sensitivity to be a well-heeled young man along with the knowledge that he is privileged unlike many other members of his immediate family. Together their voices combine to give substance to Paul Gordon’s lyrics. The music is provided by Karl Breen on guitar and Gerald Peregrine cello.
The tiered set consists of more than one level with a pair of matching staircases. Under one staircase the life of Jervis unfolds and under the other the life of Jerusha. The different levels are cleverly used to imagine amongst other things a mountain top while the top of the staircases becomes a balcony looking down on the bustle of New York.
This is a musical for limited resources as there is no chorus and the band is small. However, the integration of the two voices with the musical score is a happy one and combined together the resulting sound complemented the lyrics; within the conventions of a musical, the credibility of the story was maintained. This is an evening for those who want to enjoy a feel-good love story about under-privilege, hard work and idealism on the one hand and privilege, largesse and social advantage on the other.
It is worthwhile to remember there is no censorship in the theatre in relation to sugar content or to sentiment. For those who enjoy their entertainment on the sweeter side of the spectrum and want to leave the theatre with a feel good sensation this is a musical show to be enjoyed.