Produced by:TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Directed by: Robert Kelley
Music direction by: William Liberatore
Featuring: Derek Carley and Hilary Maiberger
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: November 30 through December 31, 2016
Where: Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Tickets: $35-$80 (savings available). Visit theatreworks.org or call 1-650-463-1960
See and hear Derek Carley and Hilary Maiberger in scenes from "Daddy Long Legs."
Read John Orr's interview with Hilary Maiberger, in The Daily News.
a holiday hit for TheatreWorks
beautifully staged rendition of musical
"Daddy Long Legs" has become one of my favorite musicals, which is curious, because it is so small: Just two people on stage.
But, what a wonderful story, and what delightful music, lyrics and book!
I saw the world premiere in 2010, but have to say the current TheatreWorks production the company's holiday gift to its patrons is even lovelier, a precious gem of a show that is delightful from its first moment.
It is being warmly, enthusiastically received by audiences at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.
Hilary Maiberger climbs stairs from the orchestra pit and becomes Jerusha Abbott, "The Oldest Orphan in the John Greir Home."
The music and lyrics are by Paul Gordon, who'd been a pop music writer before the epiphany that led him to his greater good: Writing musicals, such as "Emma," "Jane Eyre" and "Daddy Long Legs."
Gordon's lyrics cleverly enliven and advance every story he tells, and his melody lines are beautiful and require extraordinary singing ability.
A perfectly awful day
The first Monday of every month
Every floor scrubbed
Every chair dusted
A perfectly awful day
Every bed without a wrinkle
Every hair combed on 97 orphans
Poor Jerusha Abbot
Has to bear the brunt of it all
Poor Jerusha Abbot
The oldest orphan in the John Grier home
And Maiberger, who recently completely three years of touring in one of the title roles of "Beauty and the Beast" (guess which role), has a beautiful, lively voice, and finds ways to inject extra wit, emotion and intelligence into every line.
That "perfectly awful day" becomes a delightful day when she learns that one of the John Grier home trustees has decided to pay her way through college room, board, tuition and $35 a month spending cash. In return, she must write a letter to him every month, without ever expecting him to write back.
She calls him "Daddy Long Legs" because all she ever saw of him was his shadow, lengthened by automobile headlights, and his legs seemed very long. Reading her letters, he falls in love with her. She meets a fellow named Jervis Pendleton (who, unknown to her, is Daddy Long Legs), and falls in love with him. Eventually, the truth outs.
That is the conceit on which Jean Webster's epistolary 1912 novel hung: Jerusha's letters, including her accounts of meeting this Jervis guy. But when Gordon and John Caird got together to turn the book into a new musical, Caird got the idea of involving the benefactor, Jervis Pendleton, in the story.
So, as Maiberger, with her rosy cheeks and curly hair, sings a letter to Daddy Long Legs, Derek Carley, as Jervis, sings the letters sent to him from Jerusha. And, they each have solo tunes expressing their evolving emotions.
The show is deeply charming, funny and romantic, with Jerusha wondering how old her benefactor is, and if he has gray hair, or white hair or is bald, while he becomes more upset with that idea, singing "She Thinks I'm Old."
Which he isn't. Instead, he is in his 30s (maybe), and looks more like a young James Stewart than an old man.
Although the characters almost never see each other, they are both on stage most of the time, with Jerusha advancing her own story, and Jervis becoming increasingly distraught as he realizes he has fallen for her, and doesn't know how to dig himself out of the deceitful hole he has dug for himself, as both the old Daddy Long Legs she imagines, and the young Jervis she likes.
We like both of these people: Poor Jerusha, determined to make the most of her chance at college and to become a writer, and rich Jervis, who does not sit on his money, but uses it generously to help others. He admires her desire to be able to vote, and have a voice in the world around her.
The show proceeds on a beautiful set by designer Joe Ragey, with loads of bookcases in Jervis' office and in the space that constitutes Jerusha's various living spaces the John Grier home, her college, a farm where she spends her summer. In the background are Impressionist paintings meant to serve as the New York skyline, a college campus and other places.
The painting are a lovely idea, but I thought their Impressionist soft edges clashed with the handsome realism of Ragey's set.
Steven B. Mannshardt again delivers beautiful lighting design, from day to night, with carefully placed shadows to charming antique desk lamp and ancillary lighting. Jeff Mockus' sound design was excellent, with just the right mix between the singers' voices and the three-piece orchestra conducted by pianist William Liberatore. Delicate but beautiful guitar fills by Tim Roberts and cello lines by Kris Kenney added delightful texture to Gordon's melodies.
Fumiko Bielefeldt dressed Maiberger and Carley accurately and handsomely.
Email John Orr at email@example.com