By Barry Willis
A century-old Cinderella story comes to life at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater through January 22.
Sixteen years after its initial development in Ventura County, John Caird and Paul Gordon’s musical version of Jean Webster’s novel Daddy Long Legs has proven to be enduringly popular, especially among community theater troupes.
Daddy Long Legs is a production with appeal for fans of musical theater and of spunky-girl romances…
Cinnabar’s production features real-life husband-and-wife team Zachary Hasbany as young philanthropist Jervis Pendleton, and Brittany Law Hasbany as Jerusha Abbott, the oldest resident of an orphanage called the John Grier Home. The early-20th-century setup is that Jerusha has attracted his interest via her amusing descriptions of life at the orphanage. He offers to support her through college on the condition that she send monthly letters describing her progress, without expecting any replies.
Jerusha doesn’t know his identity—her letters go to an unknown benefactor called “Mr. Smith,” whom she nicknames “Daddy Long Legs” from having seen a fleeting shadow. The story spans Jerusha’s years in college, and her summers, told mostly in song—both performers are accomplished actors with fine voices—with some monologues to fill in the blanks for the audience.
As she matures, Jerusha develops a stronger sense of self, and hones her literary skills. In the course of her one-way communications with Jervis, he becomes enamored with her and arranges a meeting without revealing that he is Mr. Smith/Daddy Long Legs. They go hiking together, discover that they have acquaintances in common, and generally hit it off. He wrestles with his growing infatuation while she grows more independent. There’s a moment of truth ahead, one visible miles away.
And that’s the problem with Daddy Long Legs. Playwriting gurus say that for the sake of entertainment, audiences will make one or two huge leaps of faith to stick with the story, but this one was a leap too far for this reviewer. Jerusha becomes a successful novelist and ultimately lands her Prince Charming, but it’s not at all believable that after spending so much time with him, she doesn’t know his identity.
It’s like one of those masquerade ball scenes where the guests can see almost all of the other guests’ faces and converse in their normal voices but still pretend that they are strangers.
Director Elly Lichenstein gets lovely performances from the Hasbanys, and music director Mary Chun does likewise with the score—piano by Brett Strader—even though most of the songs sound very much alike.
Daddy Long Legs is a production with appeal for fans of musical theater and of spunky-girl romances, but potential ticket buyers are encouraged to read the Wikipedia plot synopsis before coming to the theater.
Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: email@example.com
|Production||Daddy Long Legs|
|Written by||Jean Webster - adapted by John Caird and Paul Gordon|
|Directed by||Elly Lichenstein|
|Producing Company||Cinnabar Theater|
|Production Dates||Through Jan 22nd|
|Production Address||3333 Petaluma Blvd North
Petaluma, CA 94952
|Tickets||$25 – $40|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review PICK?||----|