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Review: DADDY LONG LEGS at The Firehouse Theatre

This upbeat and charming period piece- think Anne of Green Gables meets Little Women- was unfortunately stymied by the poor audio quality of the streamed performance.

Review: DADDY LONG LEGS at The Firehouse Theatre

"Poor Jerusha Abbot- the oldest orphan in the John Grier home!" This young woman's fortunes turn around after a kindly and mysterious trustee decides to do something radical for the time period: sponsoring her- that is, paying for the education of a female- as a semi-anonymous benefactor. The musical centers on the unlikely relationship that forms between the two, via written correspondence in the early 1900s. This upbeat and charming period piece- think Anne of Green Gables meets Little Women with a hint of Great Expectations- was unfortunately stymied by the poor audio quality of the streamed performance.

It's no secret that the performing arts sector has been one of the industries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Necessity is the mother of invention, and theatres all across the world are rising to the challenge of finding creative ways to keep their theatres alive, their actors working, and audiences entertained. Many organizations, including The Firehouse Theatre, have turned to live streaming performances as a solution. Though the performance of Daddy Long Legs would have no doubt delighted in-person audiences, it leaves the remote viewer something to be desired.

The Firehouse Theatre has a well-deserved reputation for putting on wonderfully high-quality shows: everything from the acting to the directing is consistently excellent. The fact remains that this brave new world of streaming theatrical productions is outside the wheelhouse of most theatres- and work must be done in this area to make the at-home viewing experience more enjoyable. That being said, the audio quality for Daddy Long Legs was simply not there. During scenes with spoken dialogue, or musical numbers where the actors were not singing at the same time, it was not as noticeable. But the audio interference was an incredible distractor (and detractor) during songs where the performers harmonized or projected more loudly. Nevertheless, I feel confident that these audio issues can be addressed and improved upon for future showings.

Review: DADDY LONG LEGS at The Firehouse Theatre As a "real-life" couple, Caitlin Jones and Preston Isham (Jerusha and Jervis, respectively), could not have been better cast in this show. Their chemistry was predictably perfect. Jones' sunny demeanor and can-do attitude flowed through Jerusha, making it seem as though no "acting" were taking place at all. She brought to life Jerusha's insecurities, dreams, and demands in a way that was completely endearing- it is easy to see a bit of oneself, a friend, and a sister in Caitlin Jones' Jerusha. Despite the audio issues, it was easy to hear that this was a talented soprano with an exceptional vocal quality.

Preston Isham's Jervis (or, Daddy Long Legs) was endearing for a completely different set of reasons. Though we don't know his name at the outset of the show, Jervis is presented (and presents himself) as being cold and unfeeling through his first letter to Jerusha. Ever the persistent optimist, Jerusha breaks down Jervis' walls with her inquisitive and impertinent questions. Little by little, Jervis' tough exterior melts away with each new letter from Jerusha. Isham plays the part of a man who does not know he is falling in love so well. The incredulity, the defensive nature, the acting out in jealousy-all of it was wonderfully done.

The set design for this show was quaint and creative. Though Jerusha and Jervis appeared onstage together constantly, the set design made it easy to see them being as in their own corners of the world. In center upstage was Jervis' office- a raised platform upon which stood a fine desk, an impressive bookshelf, and a clothesline with Jerusha's letters displayed in a row. Surrounding that area was Jerusha's domain: a bookshelf and ladder to one side, and trunks that doubled as chairs and tables scattered throughout. Ever prop and set piece adjustment was done with a seamless transition!

The lighting for this show remained fairly consistent. Warm lights were used most often, and occasionally cooler blues and purples were used for evening or somber scenes. The costumes were likewise fairly consistent, and appropriate for the time period. Jerusha had several simple costume variations depending on the locale (the orphanage or college), and Jervis wore the same well-tailored suit- sporting the occasional boater or cane.

Review: DADDY LONG LEGS at The Firehouse Theatre

I truly commend The Firehouse Theatre and Director Derek Whitener for persevering in this global health crisis to bring the magic of theatre to the community in a safe and responsible way. Despite the aforementioned audio issues, there were so many small elements of this show that served as aching reminders of being in a live theatrical audience- watching the bobbing head of the live pianist (mask and all!) tucked away in the background, seeing the actors build a whole world with just a few props, and even taking a break to get some water during a scheduled intermission. I look forward to future productions by this incredible theatre and am excited to see what creative solutions they will dream up next.

Daddy Long Legs is available for streaming on weekends through October 11. Tickets may be purchased here.

From This Author - Kathleen Anwar

Kathleen Anwar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in government and a minor in computer science. During her time there, she performed in the Annual Madrigal Dinner (now in its... (read more about this author)

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