Posted in love story, musical theater, theater

Daddy Long Legs

Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in Daddy Long Legs, Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Paul Alexander Nolan and Megan McGinnis in Daddy Long Legs, Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Who doesn’t love a good romance? An up-by-the-bootstraps tale of success over adversity?

Paul Alexander Nolan in Daddy Long Legs, Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Paul Alexander Nolan in Daddy Long Legs, with Megan McGinnis in background. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Daddy Long Legs, at the Davenport through January 10th, extended to an open run. (warning: revealing a plot detail here)  is a story in which a poor orphan rises beyond her circumstances and falls in love with her benefactor.

The drawing room– more accurately, library room– musical, based on a novel-in-letters from 1912 by Jean Webster, Daddy Long Legs inspired the 1955 film with Fred Astaire, before providing inspiration in 2009 to Paul Gordon (music and lyrics) and John Caird (book and direction). Gordon and Caird’s two-hander premiered at the Rubicon Theater Company  and TheatreWorks.

Jerusha Abbott (Megan McGinnis) is an imaginative young woman who has grown up in the John Grier Home. Jervis Pendleton (Paul Alexander Nolan), a young man born to wealth and status, champions her future. He pays for her college education. Their relationship grows as Jerusha writes him letters detailing her progress in school.

Megan McGinnis and Paul Alexander Nolan in Daddy Long Legs,, Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Megan McGinnis and Paul Alexander Nolan in Daddy Long Legs,, Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Both McGinnis and Nolan are charming, giving agreeable performances. Daddy Long Legs is a pleasant entertainment for those with a literary bent. It hearkens up the plot of Jane Eyre, and there is a lot of talk of books and ideas.

Daddy Long Legs features a series of monologues, many of them in song, that occassionaly come together in a blend of voices. It’s more narrative than action, more tell than show.

The story of Daddy Long Legs has generated earlier incarnations than the Astaire vehicle, from a play written by Webster in 1914 to a movie starring Mary Pickford in 1919. The director and co-creator of this version, Caird refers to Jerusha in his program notes as “a female Candide….allowing Webster to develop her story into one of personal growth and emotional evolution.”

For more information, and tickets for Daddy Long Legs, please visit http://www.daddylonglegsmusical.com/ 

Posted in musical theater

“Drink with me to days gone by:” Cameron Mackintosh stages Victor Hugo’s revolution!

Love and honor are redemptive influences, and monumental themes against which to profile a life.

Ramin Karimloo is Jean Valjeam in "Les Miz"-Photo by Matthew Murphy
Ramin Karimloo is Jean Valjeam in “Les Miz”-Photo by Matthew Murphy

Cameron Mackintosh’s 25th Anniversary production of Boubil & Schönberg’s Les Miserables, at the Imperial Theatre, is about the triumph of the human spirit against adversity and misfortune. Victor Hugo’s novel, adapted by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, is the basis of this grand theaterpiece.

 Hugo’s epic is distilled into an operatic narrative for which Alain Boublil created the libretto and original lyrics in 1980,  in collaboration with Claude-Michel Schönberg and with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The music in Les Miz–as it is affectionately called– swells and falls lushly in rousing melodies.

The Barricades Photo by Michael LePoer Trench
The Barricades Photo by Michael LePoer Trench

The story covers alot of ground from a prison in 1815 to the barricades of the Paris rebellion in 1832. The revolution of 1832 was a kind of follow-up event. The Bastille was stormed in 1789 and the French had a new and beneficent monarch by 1832. Nonetheless, income inequality grew and the problems of the downtrodden poor worsened.  It is the student uprising in June of 1832 in Paris that is the culmination of Broadway’s big chronicle.

Les Miz is a stirring musical theater event.

"LookDown" from Les Miz in a photo by Catherine Ashmore
“LookDown” from Les Miz in a photo by Catherine Ashmore

Jean Valjean (Ramin Karimloo) is released from prison for stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister’s son, aided by a benevolent priest (Adam Monley) and then pursued by the strait-laced policeman, Javert (Earl Carpenter.)  The priest’s act of kindness towards him elevates the convict and transforms Jean Valjean into a man. Javert only sees things as black and white; those who once committed any crime will always be criminals in his world. Jean Valjean reinvents himself as a productive citizen. He finds purpose for his wealth in saving Fantine’s (Erika Henningsen, in a Broadway debut) daughter Cossette (as a child, Fabi Aguirre.) He owes a debt to Fantine because he ignored her plight when she worked in his factory.

Valjean is redeemed through his role as Cossette’s “father,” and as she grows into a young woman (Samantha Hill,) he finds another source of redemption in helping her lover Marius (Chris McCarrell.)

Les Miz's anthem, "One Day More" in a photo by Matthew Murphy.
Les Miz’s anthem, “One Day More” in a photo by Matthew Murphy.

All the humor in Les Miz falls on the skinny shoulders of “The Master of the House,” Thénardier (Gavin Lee) and his Madame (Rachel Izen.) They are comically corrupt and greedy souls who prey on those as poor and downtrodden as they themselves are. They are outlaws, with no revolution in them; their zeal is for acquisition and stealing. Unlike Valjean, and even Javert, these characters do not grow. Their daughter Éponine (Brennyn Lark, another fine Broadway debut), once pampered by her ma (the young Éponine, played by Lilyana Cornell) is a street waif in her father’s gang whose love for Marius gives her transcendence.

The costumes (by Andreane Neofitou and Christine Rowland) underscore the differences between the struggling poor and the well-to-do, and set the time for the action. The sets and images are based on Victor Hugo’s paintings and designed by Matt Kinley. The 25th anniversary production, at home on Broadway since March 2014, is directed with all its moving parts and grandiloquent staging, by Laurence Connor and James Powell.

As reincarnated here, it should have a long life on Broadway again. (We anticipated this visit here.)

For more information and to get tickets, go to http://www.lesmis.com/broadway/