Entertainment

Review: Theatre Raleigh's 'Daddy Long Legs' boasts top talent, and it shows

Theatre Raleigh presents the John Caird and Paul Gordon musical "Daddy Long Legs"  about a young woman living in an orphanage who is offered financial support for college by an anonymous benefactor if she’ll write him monthly letters about her new experiences.
Theatre Raleigh presents the John Caird and Paul Gordon musical "Daddy Long Legs" about a young woman living in an orphanage who is offered financial support for college by an anonymous benefactor if she’ll write him monthly letters about her new experiences. Curtis Brown Photography

Theatre Raleigh’s beautiful production of “Daddy Long Legs” exhibits top professional talent in every aspect.

The 2009 musical is a sweet tale of a young woman’s transformation through education and romance.

At a New England orphanage in the early 1900s, spunky Jerusha Abbott is now 19 and has yet to be adopted. However, an orphanage trustee, Jervis Pendleton, who has read her imaginative writings, decides to become her anonymous benefactor by paying for her college education. His condition is that she write him, detailing what she’s learning without expecting any reply.

But Jervis soon becomes intrigued with her independent spirit and fresh observations. He decides he can safely meet Jerusha because he’s the uncle of her roommate, and his niece doesn’t know Jerusha is an orphan. A romantic spark develops, but Jervis is conflicted about revealing his true identity.

The script and music

John Caird’s script, closely following Jean Webster’s 1912 book of the same name, has Jerusha speak her letters out loud. Jervis sometimes takes over, and then muses about responding.

Paul Gordon’s songs are mostly intimate miniatures that flow easily from the dialogue, with simple lyrics that also have some clever twists.

The actors

The two players come with Broadway and national tour experience — and it shows. Hilary Maiberger is engagingly warm and eager as Jerusha, her singing voice strong and deeply emotional.

Max Chernin gives Jervis a detailed characterization that ranges from sternly closed off to boisterously humorous. When he sings, you know you are in the hands of a professional who can caress a lyric or fill the theater with a booming phrase, as needed.

The production

Director Megan McGinnis, who starred in the Off-Broadway run, exhibits a sure hand with every little moment. She keeps the actors moving over Chris Bernier’s gorgeous set that accommodates Jervis’ book-lined office and Jershua’s dorm room.

Christina Munich’s lighting is especially notable in its subtle transitions for every mood and location. Sheila Cox’s costumes complete the period atmosphere. The trio of keyboard, cello and guitar, led by Joanna Li, supplies lovely underpinning.

Quibbles

Some scenes and songs are repetitive, slowing down the momentum. Gordon’s songs too often sound the same. Chernin’s winning Jervis seems somewhat youthful for the character.

Bottom line

A lovely, family friendly show that should bring smiles, laughter and maybe a tear or two.

Details

What: “Daddy Long Legs,” presented by Theatre Raleigh

Where: Kennedy Theatre, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh

When: 8 p.m. May 17-19, 23-26; 2 p.m. May 19, 26; 3 p.m. May 20, 27

Tickets: $32.50-$35

Info: 919-832-9997 or theatreraleigh.com









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