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Daddy-Long-Legs

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Jean Webster’s 1912 epistolary novel, Daddy-Long-Legs has had a surprisingly robust afterlife on stage and in films. It enjoyed a Broadway success in 1914, was popular in both silent and sound film versions, and was the basis for two film musicals. It also saw life as London musical in the 1950’s and inspired a number of international films and television adaptations.

The latest, I hesitate to say last, version premiered at the Rubicon Theatre Company in 2009. This intimate musical play was seen in regional theaters and a London transfer before finally opening as an Off-Broadway production in 2015. It is this 2-character adaptation by John Caird, with music by Paul Gordon, that is opening International City Theatre’s 2018 Season.

Jerusha Abbott (Ashley Ruth Jones) is an orphan in the dauntless Anne of Green Gables mode. She is bright, gregarious, and opinionated. Her writing catches the eye of one of the orphanage’s patrons, and he offers to send her to college at his expense. His only requirement is that she write him regularly to report on her progress, though she should expect no response.

Mere reportage is not enough for Jerusha, and she is soon baring her soul in a series of delightful and revealing letters. She is also keen, despite the rules, to get some response from Daddy Longlegs, a name she gives him after glimpsing his silhouette at the orphanage and marveling as his long, skinny legs.

Daddy Longlegs turns out to be the fabulously rich Jervis Pendleton (Dino Nicandros), who finds himself falling for his irrepressible, young charge. He hesitantly initiates a correspondence and then contrives a meeting with her, without revealing their true relationship. You can probably see where this is going, and that’s not a criticism. This story has resonated with so many people for so many years because it gives an audience what it wants.

Caird’s book allows the relationship to blossom realistically through the letters and the very few scenes in which they meet. He unabashedly embraces the story’s old-fashioned optimism and counts on Gordon’s graceful and responsive score to add a touch of modernity to the proceedings. Gordon’s songs mirror the emotional journeys of the characters and, while tuneful, do not angle for showstopping numbers. They are beautifully enhanced by the sensitive playing of an onstage trio led by Musical Director Bill Wolfe.

Mary Jo DuPrey directs the show with a deft touch that heightens the laughs as well as the sensitive moments. She also keeps the action moving forward in this two-act production. Kim DeShazo’s costumes nicely place the characters in their world, though Ellen Lenberg’s set design is disappointingly bland.

Jones is a vibrant, impetuous, and eminently lovable Jerusha. She anchors the production with a solid vocal performance and brings the audience with her every step of the journey. Nicandros is an interesting casting choice. He does not, by any stretch of the imagination, resemble a Daddy Longlegs. He is an undeniably compelling performer, but one with darker hues, both vocally and emotionally, than is the norm for this role. Still, you can’t take your eyes off him, and you definitely believe he’s Jerusha’s soulmate.

International City Theatre    February 23 – March 11, 2018    www.InternationalCityTheatre.org

 

 

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.