Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Daddy Long Legs

Adam Halpin and Megann McGinnis. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
A Delightful Period Piece Surprises
By Lauren Yarger
Period pieces can tend on the boring side, especially if there isn’t much plot, which seemed to be the case when I read a summary of Daddy Long Legs, getting an Off-Broadway run. A girl writes a bunch of letters to a mysterious man. . .

Not having read the book by Jean Webster nor having seen the 1955 film based on it starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron (or the one before that in 1931 starring Janet Gaynor) I fearfully wondered whether the relationship between the letter writer and receiver might have, shall we say, “shades of grey.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I should have my mind washed out with soap immediately.

This stage version (with a book written by John Caird , who directs) is a delightful voyage into turn-of-the-century New England. In 1908 Jerusha Abbott (Megan McGinnis) is the oldest orphan in the John Grier Home when one day, a rich anonymous benefactor (Adam Halpin) decides to send her to college. The stipulations are that she must write him a letter once a month and never know his identity.

She names him Daddy Long Legs (because that was her impression of him when she saw his shadow as he left the orphanage) and begins a correspondence in which she describes her experiences. Her imagination shapes the man to whom she is writing and he becomes a sort of romantic figure in whom she confides.

Meanwhile, Jervis Pendleton -- the real identity of Daddy Long Legs -- at first feigns disinterest in the letters, but Jerusha's bubbly, upbeat spirit captures him and he soon finds himself falling in love. He contrives to meet her as Jervis, but doesn't reveal that she has been writing to him for months. Can he remain silent when he thinks she really loves Daddy Long Legs even though another man is pursuing her?

The engaging story is a delight. On the book-trimmed, paneled set designed by David Farley (who also designs the period costumes), the characters exchange thoughts and reactions as Jerusha writes letters and Jervis reacts to them. Caird (Les Misérables), strategically places the actors to convey action on stage at the same time without destroying the illusion of their physical separation (
Lighting Designer Paul Toben lends a hand toward creating the effect as well.). The characters are brought together through harmonies in the score from Paul Gordon (Sense and Sensibility), who also writes the lyrics. Musical Direction is by Brad Haak (who also does the arrangements and orchestrations). He conducts a skilled three-person band. 

At two hours (with an intermission) the show feels a bit long. The score is pleasant, but not outstanding, and while it's a treat to hear McGinnis sing anything, no specific tune stands out or replays in the mind later. What does stay with you is a contented feeling (and the fact that Halpin and McGuinness are real-life husband and wife adds to it).

A side note: In December, Daddy Long  Legs became the first Off-Broadway show to livestream. It was seen by more than 150,000 people in 135 countries around the world.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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