Daddy Long Legs at St James Theatre review

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The 1912 Jean Webster novel Daddy Long Legs about an orphan girl and her mysterious sponsor has inspired a Broadway show, several movies and a British musical entitled Love From Judy. Now John Caird and composer and lyricist Paul Gordon have come together to bring up this new off-West End production.

The play tells the story of Jerusha Abbott, a young orphan who one day is told that a mysterious benefactor is funding her to go to college, all she has to do is write him a letter once a month to tell him of her progress and under no circumstances is she allowed to ask him any personal information or try to find out who he is. As instructed Jerusha writes letter after letter to her ‘Daddy Long Legs’, whom she presumes is an old man. In reality, dear Daddy turns out to be a young bachelor from New York who is the uncle of one of her fellow students that she happens to have taken quite a shine to.

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Caird has delved right down into the heart of the book to bring us this charming two-character show told entirely through the use of letters…until the final scene that is. As a musical, the score is very ‘samey’ throughout, with many of the number indistinguishable from the number before. As a play, it is simply charming. Both members of the cast are likeable and believable in their role, which is lucky, as they have no one to fall back on, and the plot itself is simple and sweet.

Caird and Gordon have managed to preserve Jerusha’s feisty feminist tendencies and sharp wit and they do an excellent job of moving the story along without losing the audience. As an audience member you almost want to chuckle to yourself as you watch the story unfold, though it’s pretty much obvious from the start exactly how it is going to end.

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Megan McGinnis who plays Jerusha has a wonderful voice and she beautifully conveys the characters eagerness to learn, both about life and her studies. Robert Adelman Hancock similarly is wonderfully suited to the role of Jervis/Daddy Long Legs and his voice compliments McGinnis’ well during the duets. I do however wish that the ending was slightly different as it seems that Jerusha loses all her feistiness and beliefs and just accepts the ‘twist’ without a second thought, when I truly feel that the character would actually take more of an issue, but that’s really a gripe for Webster and her novel. All in all, a great little play, but a pretty bland musical.

Until 8th December


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