What's it about?
Daddy Long Legs is a musical about Jerusha Abbott, a spunky and highly intelligent 18 year old girl who grows up as the oldest orphan in the John Grier Home in the early 1900s. When a wealthy benefactor and trustee of the orphanage (who goes by the pseudonym, Mr. John Smith) reads one of Jerusha's essays, he is so impressed by her wit that he decides to pay for her to attend college where it is his hope she will pursue writing. But there is one major condition to his generosity: Jerusha must write Mr. Smith a letter of acknowledgement every month of her four year education, and strangely, she is to expect no responses.
What'd I experience?
The stage is morphed into a study, like the kind one would see in an old fashioned, expensive home. There's books piled nearly to the ceiling in massive bookshelves, and a wooden desk and chair. Above the bookcase on the left side of the stage, I can make out the bow of a cello. I assume there's an entire orchestra of instruments and musicians obscured from my view.
I flip through the program and and am surprised to discover an only two person cast comprised of Megan McGinnis and Adam Halpin. I read Megan's bio and laugh aloud at her post script, "P.S. Megan is married to Adam Halpin." And the last line of Adam's bio: "P.P.S. Adam is married to Megan McGinnis."
Jerusha arrives on stage and she is pitiable, living miserably at the John Grier Home, longing for something to rescue her from a life of mundanity. In swoops a tall, gangly figure, that Jerusha only ever glimpses in silhouette. For some reason, this figure reminds her of a daddy longlegs, as in the completely harmless but terrifying-looking spider. I feel like there is no way the silhouette of a human man could ever resemble a spider, but I let it slide. This man, who publicly refers to himself as Mr. John Smith, takes it upon himself to financially support Jerusha's education.
Jerusha could not be more thrilled at the positive turn her life is taking. She pours her emotions into her first letter to Mr. Smith, whom she affectionately addresses as Daddy Long Legs (Daddy for short), after his apparantly arachnid-like silhouette. Without any real evidence, Jerusha confidently paints an image of her mentor as an elderly man, with either white hair, greying hair, or no hair at all. Fully aware that she is not to expect any letters in return, she inquires as to Daddy's appearance to clear up her vision of him. And Daddy finds Jerusha's questions both amusing and puzzling. Why does Jerusha take such an interest in him?
College is kind to Jerusha, and she thrives under the weight of her new knowledge. Her classmates laugh when she falsely identifies Michelangelo as an Archangel, but Jerusha is not bothered. She claims that she wants to be just like other girls, all the while dreaming of fighting for the woman's right to vote, curing diseases, and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She could never be just like other girls, even if she tried. She's too much of a badass just being herself, and deep down she probably knows that.
Jerusha's letters start to get to Daddy. He is aching to correspond with her, to provide commentary and advice. But how can he after he specifically stated there would be no such contact between them? He sends her flowers when she is ill, and eventually introduces himself to her as her classmate Julia's uncle Jervis (his real name), leading Jerusha to believe Jervis is a completely different man than his Daddy Long Legs persona. She later writes to Daddy about how Jervis reminds her of him in "much younger days."
I begin to wonder how long Jervis' charade is going to go on. All he needs to do is pen her a letter explaining everything! Jerusha is attracting other men, a fact which upsets Jervis. He conspires to keep her away from the certain older brother of a school friend, sending her away to a farm for a summer, to New York City, all places that Jervis himself makes a point to be so he can spend time with Jerusha. He wants her company and it's obvious.
Jerusha lands a book deal after years of grueling and stressful work. Jervis knows he cannot lie to the woman he cares for so deeply any longer. He writes to her for the final time as Daddy, instructing her to meet him in person. And when Jerusha arrives at what she believes to be Daddy's address, in place of an old geezer, she finds Jervis, (a young, attractive man) who confesses his years of deceipt, and proposes. Both Jerusha and Jervis are in tears, and the knowledge that the actors are husband and wife makes the moment so much more real. They are really in love, and you can tell. When Jerusha and Jervis kiss, I know I am not watching two strangers, but a man and woman happily committed to one another.
Want to see it?
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