Who’s Your “Daddy”? “Daddy Long Legs” is Broadway’s Best in SF/Bay Area By Kevin M. Thomas

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TheatreWorks’ world premiere production of “Daddy Long Legs” is everything you’d want from a Broadway musical – without the airfare or hotel cost. While already a book and a movie, this exciting, new production remains very faithful to the book as its source material and has smartly ignored the 1950s updated movie version, starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.

Director/writer John Caird seems to love period pieces. His last big musical, “Jane Eyre,” also featured powerful women in a time when their voices were not heard in society, simply because they were women.

“Daddy Long Legs” takes place at the turn of the last century and tells the story of Jerusha, the oldest orphan at the John Grier home. A guardian angel, in the form of a benefactor, takes an interest in Jerusha’s career (almost unheard of for women at this time), as long as she promises not to throw away her future just to marry a man, and to write him letters, detailing her developing literary career.

Megan McGinnis is perfect as Jerusha. She has the fresh face that one could believe can grow from a high school orphan to scholar, and full-grown woman. And to hear her sing – she soars! The depth, beauty and innocence come through loud and clear in every note she sings from Paul Gordon’s melodic, captivating score.

The sexy Robert Adelman Hancock equally matches her onstage.  Hancock may be “daddy” in her eyes, but, at first glance, the audience knows this sexy, sophisticated man isn’t the old, gray or bald daddy Jerusha had envisioned. Looks aside, Hancock has a very sweet, soothing tone to his voice, and in many numbers almost gives you goose pimples in his harmonies with McGinnis.

“Daddy Long Legs” beautiful score is reminiscent of the acclaimed musical “Light in the Piazza” in that you can easily love the whole score, although there really isn’t a standout number. That could be either a plus or a minus, depending on how important it is to you to leave the theatre singing one of the show’s “hits.”

The set and production values are pretty much flawless. If this show were to go on the road, and maybe even make it to Broadway, it would take little enhancement to make the sets even stronger. From the calligraphy that appears across the stage to signify location or time changes, to the use of books throughout the set, and the extremely clever use of luggage (you’ll see), the production design of “Daddy” is ingenious.

I’m generally resigned to having to board a plane for New York to see quality productions. Then I remember what a wonderful time I always have at TheatreWorks, right here in the Bay Area with great venues on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

At TheatreWorks I’ve enjoyed (and followed) “ Memphis ” to La Jolla then Broadway; “Summer of ‘42”, which found success beyond the Bay; and “Emma”, for which I still have high hopes. Yet, I still don’t automatically think of TheatreWorks as a place to consider for upcoming shows. That must change now.

If you haven’t gotten your Valentine a present, this is it, as the show ends Feb. 21. For more information and tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org.