Review: Daddy Long Legs, St. James ✭✭✭

The London transfer of Daddy Long Legs seems to be an entirely apt choice for the beautiful new St James Theatre, which seems to attract an audience that is reminiscent of the days when audiences wore tuxedo and fur. It fits in well with the opening season programmed for this theatre.

Daddy Long Legs centres on Jerusha Abbott, the oldest orphan in the John Grier Home, played charmingly by Megan McGinnis. Mysterious benefactor Jervis Pendleton, played by Robert Adelman Hancock, decides to send her to college, and in return she is required to write him a monthly letter. As she is never to know of her benefactor’s identity, she invents one for him with the namesake ‘Daddy Long Legs’. Jervis soon finds himself captivated by her letters and a love story emerges, where Jerusha doesn’t realise that the man she is falling for is actually her benefactor.

Written and directed by John Caird, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, the show is rather sweet. The music has all the accoutrements of period drama, but unfortunately lacks a strong musical identity. Gordon’s orchestrations are well played but there is something of a lack of variation in the composition.

The show is structured around Jerusha’s letters, which does get a little troublesome and repetitive; the majority of the action is reported rather than witnessed. There is precious little contact between the two characters, so there no real chemistry grows.

Jerusha’s development towards independence is enchanting and McGinnis portrays this skilfully.

Hancock’s Jervis feels underused. Vocally he is most comfortable in his strong falsetto, but this does mean that there is no strong vocal variation, and his involvement is generally limited to occasionally commenting on Jerusha’s letters. Nevertheless, Hancock gives a good performance. McGinnis, in contrast, hardly stops. She has a delightful voice, despite sometimes lacking strength, and gives a nuanced performance. Jerusha’s development towards independence is enchanting and McGinnis portrays this skilfully.

This new musical, despite being charming and humorous, relies on McGinnis’ performance to elevate it beyond what it would otherwise be; safe, slow-moving and a little monotonous.

*** (3 stars)
Runs until 8th December
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