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"Daddy Long Legs" Debuts at the Davenport Theatre

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Ken Davenport, Michael Jackowitz
et al.
Daddy Long Legs
(Daddy Long Legs Website)

Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon
Book by John Caird

Directed by John Caird
Music Direction/Arrangements/Orchestrations by Brad Haak

At the
Davenport Theatre
354 West 45th Street

Megan McGinnis and Paul Alexander Nolan

Conductor/Keyboard: Brad Haak
Guitars: Craig Magnano
Cello: Jeanette Stenson

Scenic and Costume Design: David Farley
Lighting Design: Paul Toben
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald
Production Manager: Duncan R. Northern
Casting: Dale Brown Casting
Production Stage Manager: Jenny Gorelick
Company Manager: Katie Montgomery
General Manager: DTE Management/Ryan Conway
Advertising & Marketing: AKA
Press Representative: Matt Ross PR

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 2, 2015

It has been over a decade since I saw Megan McGinnis in Little Women on Broadway, and it was wonderful to see her starring in this two-actor play, based on Jean Webster’s 1912 novel (same title), Daddy Long Legs. Ms. McGinnis performs in the role of Jerusha Abbott, a teenage girl who’s grown up in the dreary, suffocating, New England orphanage, The John Grier Home. One day a trustee, Jervis Pendleton, a man of great means, discovers Jerusha, a young woman with academic potential, and he makes arrangements to fund her college education in Massachusetts at Furgussen Hall. He does this generous deed in total anonymity, calling himself John Smith. Jerusha is given his pseudonym and an address, to which she is to write monthly letters about her thoughts and well-being. Paul Alexander Nolan, who was favorably reviewed on these pages in Doctor Zhivago and Jesus Christ Superstar, performs as Jervis. Both Ms. McGinnis and Mr. Nolan exude charismatic stage presence and vocal talent throughout this two-act gem.

John Caird’s remarkable and poignant book is composed mostly of those letters, back and forth over the course of Jerusha’s four years in college, with each of the two characters singing (yes, the play is “sung through”, like an operetta) either his/her written letter or letter received. Paul Gordon has composed the glistening score and high class lyrics, making this play proceed with surreal fluidity. The shifting scenes of the play, from the orphanage, to college, to a farm that Jerusha visits, to Jervis’ New York office, all take place on the very intimate Davenport Theatre stage. David Farley, who also designed early 20th century costumes, the vested business suits for Jervis and the long skirts and puffy blouses with ties for Jerusha, uses trunks for Jerusha’s writing desk and college travel. The wooden-walled set also houses high bookshelves for Jervis’ office, with Paul Toben’s spotlight shining on the character or characters, during sung monologue or dialogue. There are also lighted location and date details, gorgeously in script, on the walls for informative cues.

Peter Fitzgerald’s sound keeps the lyrics crisp and meaningful. The band, as well, on keyboard, guitars, and cello, support the sung story, never overwhelming the actors, and sometimes playing spellbinding interludes. But, it’s the steady momentum of Jerusha’s yearning, through mostly unanswered letters, then Jervis’ own yearning, through careful manipulation of Jerusha’s personal life, that makes this production so successful. The illuminated kiss, that the audience yearns for……but that would spoil the ending. Jervis’ songs, like “She Thinks I’m Old”, “How Shall We Meet”, and “The Man I’ll Never Be”, and Jerusha’s songs, like “Who Is This Man?”, “I’m a Beast”, and “I Couldn’t Know Someone Less”, plus their duets, like “The Secret of Happiness”, propel the plot from internalized thought to cautious action. The interwoven book device, of Jervis (who is related to Jerusha’s college friend) actually meeting Jerusha for fanciful adventures, drawing her in, without disclosing his dual role in her life, takes shape within phrases and nuanced scenic changes. The Davenport Theatre, built from an old New York firehouse, is named for Delbert Essex Davenport, who was a publicist, producer, author, and lyricist in the 20th century. Ken Davenport, his great-grandson, head of Davenport Theatrical Enterprises, owns the theater. Entering the lobby, the audience is greeted with historical, framed, theatrical photos and memorabilia, from “Del” Davenport’s era. Kudos to all.

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at