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Free! Watch Live Stream of Off Broadway’s ‘Daddy Long Legs’

November 30th, 2015 Comments off
Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in 'Daddy Long Legs' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in ‘Daddy Long Legs’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Producers Ken Davenport and Michael Jackowitz in association with Live Stream have announced that the new musical Daddy Long Legs will be the first ever Broadway or Off-Broadway performance to be broadcast over the Internet free of charge on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 8 p.m. EST.

The musical, which has had acclaimed productions throughout the United States as well as international productions in Canada, Tokyo and London’s West End before opening in New York, will partner withLivestream and make history as it allows audiences worldwide to view a live performance in full. Viewers can visit the show’s website, www.DaddyLongLegsMusical.com/Livestream now to register to watch the performance.

The live stream will feature performances from Daddy Long Legs stars, and real-life married couple, Megan McGinnis (Les Misérables, Side Show, Little Women) and Adam Halpin (Dogfight, RENT, Kinky Boots Natl. Tour).

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in 'Daddy Long Legs' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in ‘Daddy Long Legs’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

A very limited number of seats are available for purchase for this historic event, and can be purchased now at www.telecharge.com or by calling Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6222.

“Anyone that reads my blog knows that I’m uber passionate about figuring out how to distribute our content to the rest of the world in a way that helps bring new audiences to our shows and to the theater in general,” said Producer Ken Davenport. “I believe that the digital distribution of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions could be the biggest audience development tool we have at our disposal . . . that we are not using.  So we’re going to start with Daddy Long Legs, and show this beautiful musical to the world for free, in the hopes that more shows and more audiences will follow.”

“I’m delighted that Daddy Long Legs will be the first ever musical to be live-streamed from New York,” said director and book-writer John Caird. “Ever since my first shows in New York—Nicholas Nickleby and Les Miserables—I have been ambitious to share my work with as many people as possible, but especially those for whom the journey to see the live show is just too far or too expensive.”

Viewers can register now via www.DaddyLongLegsMusical.com/Livestream to watch the broadcast live on Thursday, December 10.  Electronic doors will open at 7:30pm, with the performance beginning at 8 p.m. EST, live from the Davenport Theater.

Following the live broadcast at 8 p.m. EST, the performance will be replayed Thursday evening at 8pm PST, and on Friday, December 11 at 8 p.m. GMT and 8 p.m. JST allowing international viewers to enjoy the performance in primetime.

Review: ‘Allegiance’

November 27th, 2015 Comments off
Telly Leung (center) and the cast of 'Allegiance' (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Telly Leung (center) and the cast of ‘Allegiance’ (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Allegiance, the new Broadway musical currently playing at the Longacre Theatre, isn’t perfect. But neither is America’s track record when it comes to minority populations. Our country is currently in heated debates over our Muslim communities, some even calling for mandatory “databases,” in response to the recent ISIS attacks in Paris.

“The sense we get now is that it’s not only worse for Arabs and Muslims,” said Abed Ayoub, national policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, in a recent article on CNN. “The sense we get now is that it’s worse for all immigrant and brown communities as a whole.”

This fearful temperament shows that, yes, history has the potential to repeat itself. Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order that would relocate “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both citizens and aliens, inland, outside of the Pacific military zone. The objectives of the order were to prevent espionage and to protect persons of Japanese descent from harm at the hands of Americans who had strong anti-Japanese attitudes,” according to the National Archives.

Lea Salonga and George Takei in 'Allegiance' (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Lea Salonga and George Takei in ‘Allegiance’ (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

This dark stain in American history, and the personal experiences of George Takei, serve as inspiration for Allegiance, which follows the journey of siblings Kei (Lea Salonga) and Sammy (Telly Leung) Kimura, as they are forced, along with their father Tatsuo (Christòpheren Nomura) and grandfather Ojii-chan (George Takei) to move to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in northwest Wyoming.

During their confinement, Mike Masaoka (Greg Watanabe), an executive with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) attempts to leverage the rights of Japanese Americans through various recommendations, including segregating troublemakers such as Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee) and others enraged by the government’s actions. Within the camp, there are varying degrees of animosity and compassion, including nurse Hannah Campbell (Katie Rose Clarke), who falls under Sammy’s convincing spell after a number of visits to the infirmary in his quest to obtain medication for this grandfather. Another love interest develops between Kei and Frankie during the course of their internment, and the two storylines weave throughout broader historical happenings, which include the valiant efforts of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team—a segregated unit of Japanese-Americans assigned on a mission to the Vosges Mountains of France.

With a book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione, and music by Jay Kuo, Allegiance is both intimate and sweeping in scope. Director Stafford Arima (Broadway debut) keeps the action moving at a swift pace with the help of scenic (Donyale Werle) and projection (Darrel Maloney) designs that seamlessly transform from one locale to the next.

Unfortunately, other elements have needlessly been polished to a Broadway shine, which undermines the story’s truthfulness. Costumes by Alejo Vietti are crisp, vibrant, and period specific, but too picture-perfect for those living under such harsh conditions. Andrew Palermo’s choreography, too, unnecessarily dazzles in several flashy production numbers (“Get in the Game” feels like it was lifted from the short-lived TV series, Smash). And while the show’s book manages to encapsulate multiple storylines, it unfolds in a linear and literal manner that occasionally lacks dramatic tension.

The acting ensemble led by the deep-voiced and endearing Takei, is clearly dedicated to the piece. Along with Takei; Salonga, Leung, and Lee appeared in the production’s 2012 world premiere at the Old Globe Theatre. Allegiance, above all, has heart. And though it sometimes feels as though it’s been molded to fit a preconceived idea of what a Broadway show “should” look like, the musical’s relevance is a haunting reminder of how fragile and fleeting our freedom can be.

Here’s what the other critics are saying…

“Directed in workmanlike fashion by Stafford Arima, “Allegiance” has a complicated story to unfold and to humanize. It does a reasonable job of providing a nuanced view of events, the occasional swerve into melodrama notwithstanding. Some scholars of Japanese-American history have objected to unnecessary factual inaccuracies, but the musical, which bills itself as being “inspired” by actual events (and in part by Mr. Takei’s own experience in another camp), need not be held to the standards of strict documentary.

If anything, the authors, feeling the responsibility of illuminating this shameful chapter in American history, pack the show with so much incident and information that “Allegiance” often feels more like a history lesson than a musical. A singing history lesson, yes, but a history lesson nonetheless.” ­New York Times

“Ultimately what wins you over is the heart to heart connection. That stupid simple journey of the soul to find its path and the others who will share it. You could be separated by time and space, then tossed back together without a hesitation. Some loves you win. Others you lose. It is indeed a crazy game of allegiance everywhere you look – but it is ours, and who would ever think of giving it up.” New York Theatre Guide

“The show isn’t bombastic or preachy, though some may find the well-structured book—written by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione—too earnest. Kuo’s serviceable score is loaded with anthems, simple melodic lines and some obvious rhymes, with a few lighthearted ’40s boogie-woogy numbers to signify Americana. Although we hear enticing Japanese flute and percussion between scenes, this more “Le Miz”-lite pop opera than a fusion of musical cultures.” Newsday

Allegiance
Longacre Theatre
228 West 48th Street
Open ended run.

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

Review: ‘On Your Feet!’

November 18th, 2015 Comments off

by Laura Grimmer

Ana Villafañe and the cast of 'On Your Feet!' (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Ana Villafañe and the cast of ‘On Your Feet!’ (photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

To be honest, I was astonished at the sheer number of Gloria Estefan songs I not only knew, but knew well enough to heartily sing along. Which made me just another member of the crowd at a recent production of On Your Feet! now playing at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre.

And to be sure, the crowd is a friendly, lively and easy-going group there to enjoy a night of pop hits, over-simplified love and family relationship stories and melodramatic recoveries from horrific bus accidents. And yes, it’s a good time.

Directed by Jerry Mitchell (a two-time Tony Award winner as a choreographer, most recently for Kinky Boots), On Your Feet is the dramatized life story of Gloria née Fajardo, whose parents left Cuba when Castro came to power and settled in Miami, and Emilio Estefan, the Latin music impresario who discovered her and managed the meteoric, cross-over success of their band, Miami Sound Machine. (Gloria and Emilio share music, lyric and orchestration credit for the show.)

Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe in 'On Your Feet!' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Josh Segarra and Ana Villafañe in ‘On Your Feet!’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Broadway newcomer Ana Villafañe is a knockout as Gloria, with her looks and the timbre of her voice evoking the superstar while bringing energy, passion and depth to the by-the-numbers book by Alexander Dinelaris, an Academy Award-winner for the screenplay of Birdman.

Opening with a snippet of Rhythm is Gonna Get You from Gloria in concert, the first act lays out the Estefans’ never-stop work ethic and tells the back story of Gloria’s father (Eliseo Roman), a one-time Cuban policeman and Batista family bodyguard who served as a U.S. soldier in Vietnam before falling ill with multiple sclerosis. Gloria’s abuelo (grandmother, played by Alma Cuervo) plays the role of both historian to explain things when needed to further the action and matchmaker between Gloria and Emilio (a quite dashing Josh Segarra), then the band leader of the Miami Latin Boys.

“Anything for You” is Gloria’s performance piece to audition for Emilio’s band, 1-2-3 (“1-2-3-4, Come on, baby, say you love me”) is the vehicle for showcasing Gloria’s rise from shy, reluctant singer to superstar-on-the rise, and “I See Your Smile” illustrates the young couple’s evolving emotional connection.

There’s a somewhat predictable mother-daughter conflict as Gloria’s career takes off and her mother, also named Gloria and played beautifully by Andréa Burns, relives her past glory as a performer in Cuba before her father (and presumably, the revolution) killed her dreams.

While the music had the audience bobbing up and down throughout the night, one of the best applause-inducing moments of the play came when Emilio is trying to convince record executive Phil (Lee Zarrett) that Miami Sound Machine’s music, already a hit in the Latin market, can be a bonafide cross-over hit with an album in English.

“While you’re dominating the Latin markets, the next single is gonna be in Spanish!” Phil says. “It’s that simple. You really wanna cross over? Fine. Get rid of the horns, simplify the percussion, change your name. Then we’ll talk.”

“When I first got to Miami,” Emilio says, seething, “there was a sign in front of the apartment building next to ours. It said, ‘No Pets. No Cubans.’ Change my name? It’s not my name to change. It’s my father’s name. It was my grandfather’s name. My grandfather, who we left behind in Cuba to come here and build a new life. Now, for 15 years I’ve worked my ass off and paid my taxes. So, I’m not sure where you think I live, but this is my home. And you should look very closely at my face, because whether you know it or not, this is what an American looks like.”

Needless to say, Conga went on to blow up the Billboard chart, and eventually Gloria Estefan went on to make 38 hits and win seven Grammy Awards.

Ana Villafañe as Gloria Estefan in 'On Your Feet!' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Ana Villafañe as Gloria Estefan in ‘On Your Feet!’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

The second half of On Your Feet is dominated by the March 1990 bus accident that resulted in a traumatic spine injury and more than a year of grueling rehabilitation for Gloria, culminating in her triumphant return to the stage with the Billboard number one hit, “Coming Out of the Dark.”

Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Memphis) choreographed the Cubano dance-driven numbers (and there are many). Smoothly performed by the lithesome company with terrific energy, I wasn’t the only audience member whose shoulders were twitching to shimmy during the dance segments.

David Rockwell’s set design (On the Twentieth Century, Kinky Boots) makes clean, efficient use of revolving panels to carry the story from a Miami Sound Machine concert to Gloria’s Miami childhood home, to a hospital and to Gloria’s triumphant return to the stage. Lighting by Kenneth Posner (Kinky Boots, Finding Neverland) provides a needed assist to elevate the drama in the at-times sparse story.

The costumes, by Esosa (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Motown) capture the classical Miami look and feel up through the 1980s and 90s fashion so intrinsic to the MTV generation.

In the genre of so-called jukebox musicals based on singers and/or popular songs (Beautiful, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia), On Your Feet fares well as a cohesive blend of story-telling via this singer’s pantheon of hits.

On Your Feet!
Marquis Theatre
46th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
Open ended run.

A former reporter for the Associated Press, Laura Grimmer is an avid theatergoer with an admittedly bourgeois fear of seeing someone naked on stage. Follow her on Twitter at @lauragrimmer.

Breaking: LuPone and Ebersole to Star in New Musical

November 13th, 2015 Comments off
Patti LuPone (Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com)

Patti LuPone (Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com)

Christine Ebersole (JStone/Shutterstock)

Christine Ebersole (JStone/Shutterstock)

Things are heating up this summer when Tony Award winners Patti LuPone (Gypsy, Evita) and Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens) head to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre to star in War Paint, a new musical about icons of the fashion industry.

Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden defined beauty standards for the first half of the 20th Century. Brilliant innovators with humble roots, both were masters of self-invention who sacrificed everything to become the country’s first major female entrepreneurs. They were also fierce competitors, whose 50-year tug-of-war would give birth to an industry. From Fifth Avenue society to the halls of Congress, their remarkable rivalry was ruthless, relentless and legendary—pushing both women to build international empires in a world dominated by men.

The two theatrical powerhouses will go head to head in this new musical about two legendary ladies who forever changed the business of beauty.

The creative team includes the acclaimed Broadway team of librettist Doug Wright(Grey GardensI Am My Own Wife, The Little Mermaid); composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, Far From Heaven); and director Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal, If/Then and Grey Gardens).

June 28 – August 7, 2016

Preview: ‘Gigantic’ at Vineyard Theatre

November 11th, 2015 Comments off

GiganticVineyard Theatre’s 2015-2016 season kicks off tonight at 8pm when the new muscial comedy Gigantic begins previews at The Acorn Theatre @ Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street) on November 11.  Single tickets are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visiting www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Gigantic.

Gigantic will open December 3 and play until December 20. Gigantic features a book by Randy Blair  (Perez Hilton Saves the UniverseSpidermusical) and Tim Drucker (Perez Hilton Saves the UniverseSpidermusical) , music by Matthew roi Berger (Spidermusical), lyrics by Randy Blair, choreography by Chase Brock (Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark) and will be directed by Scott Schwartz (Bat Boy: The Musical).

Getting shipped off to weight-loss camp is hardly Robert’s idea of the perfect summer, but even he isn’t prepared for what can be lost or gained at Camp Overton, the No. 3 weight-loss camp in Southern Pennsylvania. With biting humor and irreverence, Gigantic tackles the growing pains of adolescence through the experiences of a bunch of misfit teens forced to find solace in one another as they look — inside and out — for acceptance, a hot make-out session, and the last contraband Butterfinger.

An earlier version of Gigantic was presented in development at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2009 with the title Fat Camp, where it received the “Best of Fest Award.”

Listen: Sara Bareilles’ ‘What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress’

November 5th, 2015 Comments off

Sara BareillesMulti-platinum selling, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and New York Times best-selling author Sara Bareilles is releasing her highly anticipated new studio album this fall through Epic Records. Entitled What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress, the album features songs from the upcoming Broadway musical Waitress, for which she wrote both music and lyrics. The musical, which will open at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre on April 24, 2016, with previews beginning March 25, had a recent run at The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, MA, where it played through September.

Reuniting with KALEIDOSCOPE HEART producer Neal Avron, the album was recorded in New York and Los Angeles and is Sara’s much-anticipated follow-up to her highly-acclaimed, Grammy-nominated third studio album “The Blessed Unrest.”  The album’s first single, “She Used to Be Mine,” is available at iTunes and all digital retailers now.

Sara Bareilles (Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com)

Sara Bareilles (Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com)

Amazon is carrying a special deluxe version of the album packaged in a menu-themed oversized booklet at Amazon.com . This limited-edition package contains exclusive photos and excerpts from Sara’s personal Waitress journal along with drink coasters, a postcard from Sara, and more.

Bareilles recently released her first book, Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song, on October 6 via Simon & Schuster. The book, which made the New York Times Best Sellers List, is a collection of personal essays which among other things, tells the inside stories behind some of her most popular songs, including “Love Song,” “Gravity,” and her most recent hit, “Brave.”

The Broadway production of Waitress will star Jessie Mueller, winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, with additional casting to be announced. Based on the 2007 motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly, the new musical has a book by Jessie Nelson, music and lyrics by five-time Grammy Award-nominated singer songwriter Sara Bareilles and direction by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus.

Jenna (Jessie Mueller) is a waitress and expert pie maker stuck in a small town and a loveless marriage. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, Jenna fears she may have to abandon the dream of opening her own pie shop forever… until a baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s handsome new doctor offer her a tempting recipe for happiness. Supported by her quirky crew of fellow waitresses and loyal customers, Jenna summons the secret ingredient she’s been missing all along—courage.

Listen: ‘Be More Chill’ a New Musical

October 30th, 2015 Comments off

Be More ChillGhostlight Records and Two River Theater release the original cast recording of the new musical Be More Chill ( international digital release on Friday, November 13; with physical CDs in stores and online Friday, December 18).

Be More Chill, which recently had its world premiere in an extended run at Two River Theater, Red Bank, NJ, has music and lyrics by Joe Iconis, book by Joe Tracz, and is based on the novel by Ned Vizzini. The show was directed by Stephen Brackett with Chase Brock serving as choreographer. The orchestrator and musical supervisor was Charlie Rosen and the musical director and copyist was Nathan Dame. The Be More Chill cast album was produced by Kurt Deutsch, Joe Iconis and Charlie Rosen.

The song “Halloween” is available as a special “First Listen” free download at bemorechill.viinyl.com.

To help celebrate the album, Joe Iconis’s Rock and Roll Haunted Halloween Special 6 will be performed at the Laurie Beechman Theater at 407 West 42nd Street on October 31 at 7:30 p.m.. The event will star members of the original cast of Be More Chill including Gerard Canonico, Will Connolly, Katie Carlson Farrell, Katie Ladner, Lauren Marcus, and George Salazar. Jeremy Morse (Waitress), Will Roland (Dear Evan Hansen), and Jason “SweetTooth” Williams (Transport Group’s Once Upon a Mattress) will also perform.

Joe Iconis has been nominated for two Drama Desk Awards and a Lucille Lortel Award, and is the recipient of the Ed Kleban Award and the Jonathan Larson Award for Musical Theater writing. His songs appeared on season two of NBC’s Smash and he is the author of The Black Suits, the rock-and-roll Spaghetti Western musical Bloodsong of Love, Things To Ruin, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks and We The People. Upcoming projects include a new musical about Hunter S. Thompson for La Jolla Playhouse and an exploitation action musical called Annie Golden: Bounty Hunter, Yo!. Be More Chill is Joe’s third album on Ghostlight Records.

‘Allegiance’ Launches Digital Lottery $39 Rush Tickets

October 19th, 2015 Comments off

AllegianceAllegiance will implement a digital lottery for $39 seats available each day via:

allegiancemusical.com/lottery

Entries can be submitted the day of the preferred performance, either by 11 a.m. for matinees or 3 p.m. for evening performances. Winners will be notified via email or text, depending on what they select during the entry process, and winners may purchase up to 2 tickets which will be held at the box office.

Allegiance will also offer a limited number of $39 rush tickets for patrons 35 years old and under for each performance beginning at the opening of the box office each day. There will be a limit of 2 tickets per customer.  Cash or credit cards will be accepted for all lottery and rush tickets, and seat locations will vary depending on availability.  The Allegiance Digital Lottery is powered by Shubert Ticketing and marks the launch of the new Telecharge Digital Lottery platform which provides theatre-goers wide access to affordable tickets through multiple social media networks.

Allegiance stars Tony and Olivier Award winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon, Les Miserables) in her long-awaited return to Broadway joined by “Star Trek” icon George Takei in his Broadway debut at age 78, and Broadway and “Glee” star Telly Leung. Allegiance is the vibrant and unforgettable story of one family’s resilience in the face of seemingly-insurmountable odds, inspired by Takei’s real-life experience as a Japanese American during World War II.

Performances of Allegiance began at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street) on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 with an official Opening Night set for Sunday, November 8, 2015.  For more information, visit www.AllegianceMusical.com.

Review: Daddy Long Legs

September 29th, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in 'Daddy Long Legs' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in ‘Daddy Long Legs’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Epistolary plays—like Jerome Kilty’s Dear Liar, A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters, and Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth—are far less common than epistolary novels. Perhaps that’s because of the difficulty in developing and maintaining a strong dramatic focus through the reading of letters over a period of time during which the correspondents read their words to an audience rather than directly to one another. This problem is only partially solved in Daddy Long Legs, a sweet but too-frequently static, two-actor chamber musical adaptation of Jean Webster’s 1912 novel. The beat of its schmaltzily old-fashioned romantic heart has been strong enough to inspire a handful of films, including a 1955 musical starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. (Some may see resemblances to such musicals as She Loves Me and My Fair Lady.)

In their not-so-new version (it premiered in Los Angeles in 2009 and has received several other productions, including one in London), book writer and director John Caird (co-director and co-adaptor of Les Misérables) and composer-lyricist Paul Gordon (Tony nominated for Jane Eyre) have remained faithful to Webster’s sentimental story. It’s about 18-year-old orphan Jerusha Abbott (Megan McGinnis) at the grim John Grier Home for Orphans, who learns that—although he’s never seen her—an anonymous trustee (the pseudonymous Mr. Smith) has chosen to subsidize her college education so that she may become a writer. He—a wealthy, handsome socialite in his 30s named Jervis Pendleton (Paul Alexander Nolan)—provides a list of requirements, including that she must write to him regularly but never expect a reply.

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in 'Daddy Long Legs' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in ‘Daddy Long Legs’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Thrilled, the eternally sunny, if wistful, Pollyanna-ish heroine writes letter after letter to the man she calls Daddy Long Legs because of the spidery impression his shadow cast when she first spotted him leaving the orphanage. Clearly imagining him as a father (or grandfather) figure—she constantly calls him “Daddy”—she’s obsessed with his looks, conceiving him as old, gray, or bald. Her charming missives, which are read and sung aloud by both characters, tell us of the wonderful education she’s receiving (as she evolves from naïf to summa cum laude valedictorian), of her friendships, of her emotional highs and lows, and, most interestingly and amusingly, of her rejection of fundamentalist religion and her emerging socialist (Fabian) and feminist leanings at a time when women still didn’t have the vote.

Gradually, Jervis (himself a socialist) finds himself falling in love, and even meets Jerusha as himself but never reveals that he’s her benefactor. It doesn’t take long to figure out where all this is going, and, after an overlong nearly two and a half hours broken by an intermission, Jervis’s lily-livered wavering can go no further. Creepy as his behavior has been (on several levels, not least the Freudian), all comes to a satisfactorily mushy conclusion, bringing the tearstained spectators to their feet.

Until the end, when the foundling and her Dutch uncle finally meet, the lines and lyrics are directed at us, and, except when Jervis is writing on his own behalf in the guise of his secretary, we hear his voice only when he’s reiterating what Jerusha has written, which sometimes proves confusing. The contrived situation is interesting up to a certain point, after which it becomes a matter of diminishing returns as you wait impatiently for the inevitable resolution.

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in 'Daddy Long Legs' (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in ‘Daddy Long Legs’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel via The Broadway Blog.)

The setting is an attractive, dark-paneled library (designed by David Farley, who also did the delightfully authentic period costumes) of floor to ceiling books (on whose shelves Jervis pins Jerusha’s letters); there’s a desk on a low platform at stage right, and the planked flooring below is filled with an assortment of battered steamer trunks that can be swiftly rearranged to suggest settings, like the top of a hill. Paul Toben’s lighting (adapted by Corey Pattak) captures the shifting moods, taking full advantage of the opportunities when hidden windows eventually are revealed. Projections in early 20th century penmanship scrawl times and places across the bookshelves, behind which the three-person band (keyboard, guitars, cello) conducted by Brad Haak is hidden.

Gordon’s score, while pleasantly melodic and listenable, too often acts as generic underpinning to narrative lyrics, making one song sound like any other, although a few, like Jervis’s touching “Charity,” make an impression. There are, however, very few echoes of the kind of music popular in the pre-World War I years, which, given the show’s textual and visual authenticity, seems a shame.

The sylph-like Megan McGinnis, her hair a sea of ringlets, has been with the show throughout its off and on peregrinations but is commendably fresh and appealing, although you may find that Jerusha’s relentless optimism, spunkiness, and winsome smiling have their limits; it’s almost a relief to see her break into tears near the end. As Jervis, Paul Alexander Nolan is suitably attractive and demonstrates an engaging tenor, but his is an unenviably problematic role, and Nolan’s often stagey speech isn’t much help in making us love him as we do Jerusha.

An older audience seemed to eat up Daddy Long Legs when I attended, but I suspect its strongest appeal remains with female young adults. Perhaps those titular legs might grow even longer if it were marketed at them.

Daddy Long Legs
Davenport Theatre
354 West 45th Street, NYC
Open run

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

First Look: ‘Amélie’ at Berkeley Rep

September 5th, 2015 Comments off
Samantha Barks in 'Amélie' at Berkeley Rep. (photo: kevinberne.com via The Broadway Blog)

Samantha Barks in ‘Amélie’ at Berkeley Rep. (photo: kevinberne.com via The Broadway Blog)

Broadway’s Gigi didn’t last long, but that doesn’t mean that another French ingenue, Amélie, can’t find her way to the Great White Way by way of Berkeley Rep. Amélie captured our hearts in the five-time Academy Award-nominated 2001 French film. Now she comes to the stage in a new musical directed by Tony Award winner Pam MacKinnon, who is known for her work on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Clybourne Park. With a book by Craig Lucas (An American in ParisPrelude to Kiss), the musical features a score by Daniel Messé of the band Hem and lyrics by Messé and Nathan Tysen (The Burnt Part Boys). The show is currently in previews, playing now through October 4, 2015.

Amélie
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Roda Theater
2015 Addison St., Berkley
Through October 4

The cast of 'Amélie' at Berkeley Rep. (photo: www.kevinberne.com via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Amélie’ at Berkeley Rep. (photo: www.kevinberne.com via The Broadway Blog.)