Nolan and Megan McGinnis
by Michall Jeffers
One thing’s for sure; if you put
on a play with only two actors, they better be really good. Daddy Long Legs
is most fortunate in having Megan McGinnis as the orphan Jerusha, and Paul
Alexander Nolan as her benefactor, Jervis. Nolan is handsome, earnest,
altogether dreamy. And McGinnis is absolutely glorious.
McGinnis has a strong, clear
soprano voice, with an impressive range. At times, she’s reminiscent of Anna
Maria Alberghetti in Carnival; at others, J. Smith-Cameron comes to
mind. The story revolves around her, and in spite of the fact that she’s
onstage nearly all the time, we never get bored with her. This is star quality.
Photos by Jeremy Daniel.
It’s the spring of 1908 when the
play begins. Jerusha is a smart young woman, the oldest in an orphanage she
longs to leave. One day, she’s told she’s being sent off to school by a wealthy
man who calls himself “John Smith.” She must write to him once a month;
conditions state that he will never respond, and they will never meet. Jerusha
runs to get a glimpse of him as he leaves, but can only observe that he’s tall.
In her mind, she pictures him as also being old, no doubt as a father figure.
She decides to call him “Daddy Long Legs.” Soon, her letters become a source of
expression for her, and amusement for him.
Jerusha makes friends at school,
and one frenemy, who turns out to be the niece of “Daddy.” This gives Jervis a
chance to talk with Jerusha, when he sneakily makes dates to visit the boarding
school, while pretending to be a doting uncle. Inevitably, the reclusive
Jervis and the outgoing Jerusha are attracted to each other, and begin to fall
Paul Gordon’s music and lyrics
are, to be certain, a cut above the noise that often passes for show tunes in
modern musicals. What a pleasure to not have to wear earplugs during a musical!
Sung with skill, fervor and perfect pitch by McGinnis and Nolan, if they don’t
always carry the plot along, they are pleasing to hear. The play is too long;
the second act could benefit greatly by being edited. “Charity” is a number
which could easily be cut; it’s unnecessary, and impedes the action.
Director John Caird has cleverly
used the tiny stage to great advantage. Jervis’s library, by scenic and costume
designer David Farley, is quite wonderful, chocked full of hard bound books and
impressive looking mahogany. Jerusha gracefully changes clothing which is kept
in an old trunk. It’s a bit off-putting that she ends up with the man she
addresses as “Daddy,” but with her chocolate-drop eyes and charming ringlets,
McGinnis projects wholesomeness, and sells the set-up. Jervis is both jealous
and duplicitous, but Nolan has a sweet quality which allows us to chalk up his
foibles to social awkwardness.
Fans of The Fantasticks
and Once are well aware that bigger doesn’t always mean better. This
production of Daddy Long Legs is a theater experience to savor, and if
the heavens are in alignment, a good chance to see two extraordinary performers
who may well be destined for stardom.
Daddy Long Legs, Davenport
Theatre, 354 West 45 St., 212-352-3101 www.daddylonglegsmusical.com
Author: music & lyrics, Paul
Gordon; book, John Caird, based on novel by Jean Webster.
Director: John Caird
design, David Farley
Cast: Megan McGinnis (Jerusha);
Paul Alexander Nolan (Jervis)