BWW Review: DADDY LONG LEGS at Lyric Stage
For only four performances last weekend, the two-person musical DADDY LONG LEGS crawled in and out of the Majestic Theatre as Lyric Stage's third production of the 2017-2018 season. And although the production wasn't much larger than a postage stamp, it was a theatrical love letter full of charm.The musical is based on the 1955 Fred Astaire flick of the same title, written for the stage by John Caird (book) and Paul Gordon (music and lyrics). Following the "oldest orphan in the John Grier Home," the musical is centered on Jerusha Abbott and the anonymous benefactor, whom she dubs Daddy Long Legs, who sponsors her college education. As Jerusha writes monthly letters to her faceless supporter, she shares her life lessons and challenges, but grows increasingly frustrated by his lack of response. But Daddy has a secret - and he and Jerusha may already be acquaintances.
Lyric's production featured Samantha McHenry as Jerusha and local legend Christopher J. Deaton as the title character (also known as Jervis Pendleton). With the bulk of the show relying on each actor reading, writing, or singing about a letter exchange, the success of this musical relies on two performers who can intimately engage an audience with little more than a simple costume and spotlight. And fortunately for Dallas audiences, both McHenry and Deaton were up to the tough task. McHenry brought to the stage a contagious spunk that captivated the audience from curtain up to her inevitable bow. Her warm soprano proved to be a perfect fit for the show - an important quality for a character featured in twenty of the show's thirty musical numbers. Anchoring the opposite end of the stage was Deaton with his resoundingly bright tenor vocals. Although the role shows off Deaton's talents far less than his recent appearances in Lyric's GRAND HOTEL or Casa Manana's SPAMALOT, DADDY LONG LEGS was a nice opportunity to see a subtler performance.
Despite the fact DADDY LONG LEGS is likely better suited for a venue cozier than the vast Majestic Theatre, director Richard Estes and scenic designer Randel Wright made the best of the space with simple yet sophisticated pieces to add weight to the stage. Had the staging and scenery been pulled 8 feet down to the stage's apron, perhaps the audience could have even better connected to the pair of nuanced performances that often felt miles away. Musical director Scott A. Eckert and his orchestra maintained Lyric's impressive reputation and offered appropriate support for the singers without overpowering their vocals. Lights, by Julie Simmons, and costumes, by Catherine Carpenter Cox, further enhanced the production.
It was hard to gauge if the infrequent applause on opening night was a measure of the audience's enthusiasm level or simply a consequence of songs unfolding back-to-back. Nevertheless, Lyric Stage found success with this tiny sleeper-hit off-Broadway musical.
Lyric returns to their more familiar style of shows this June with GUYS AND DOLLS, which will also take the Majestic Stage for only one weekend. Their 2018-2019 season is slated to include productions of NEWSIES, I DO! I DO!, MAN OF LA MANCHA, and a concert featuring Dallas Winds. For tickets and more information, visit www.LyricStage.org.