*disclaimer: I was given free tickets to Daddy Long Legs at Barn Theatre in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.
Daddy Long Legs
“a beautifully quaint show”
On a wet, dark and cold Friday evening in Cirencester, the beautiful Daddy Long Legs musical played at the Barn Theatre.
Based on the 1912 novel by Jean Webster and with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, this quaint tale depicts our leading lady Jerusha Abbott being mysteriously funded for her education by the wealthy Jervis Pendleton. These two characters are the only ones we see in the show, and through their correspondence through letters and some slight deceit, the pair’s lives become more intertwined and the show ends on a long-awaited kiss.
I had heard the soundtrack to this show in the past, and it has to be said that the best thing about this production was the music. The score is beautifully written, with underlying tones that repeat themselves in numerous songs throughout, and there are definitely some earworms in there too.
I often find that when I listen to a soundtrack too much, the real production never lives up to it, but both Rebecca Jayne-Davies and Ryan Bennett did an absolutely incredible job. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a live show before where the actors sound the same quality, if not better than the original. I was truly blown away by the beautiful score and soft yet powerful vocals.
Rebecca Jayne-Davies as leading lady Jerusha was beyond perfectly cast. Her presentation was the perfect balance of perky, at times ever so slightly irritating, but she pulls it back with enough of an endearing nature for you not to find her that bit too annoying. She is stubborn, strong willed, humorous with impeccable comedy timing and wit, and the perfect Jerusha. I really enjoyed every aspect of her performance.
Equally, Ryan Bennet as rich Jervis Pendleton does a brilliant job at winning the audience over. From some seriously intense numbers to some really humorous moments, Bennett has the character down to a T.
Both of our actors do a brilliant job at playing with the other on stage whilst at the same time ignoring the other completely. As the two characters only communicate through Jerusha’s letters to Jervis, and none reciprocated, this relationship is hard to build, yet the two do a great job of intertwining in and out of each other’s lives.
Special mention has to be given to Gregory Donelly, Mike Leopold and Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner as set designer, set builder and lighting designer respectively. The set was simple, yet effective, with books taking up the majority of stage right, and letters beautifully dottered in the background and on the ceiling. The way each letter lit up at the back of the stage when it was being read really took my breath away and contributed to making this quaint show so beautiful.
The musicians also had some lovely interactions with the main characters as they were situated on stage. Pianist Charlie Ingles, cellist Rosalind Ford and guitarist Alex Crawford all contribute to a great show.
It has to be said that the plot is quite simplistic. With just two main characters and a deceit taking hold, it does run parallels with other musicals in the 1900s such as Top Hat – a simple show that delights nonetheless. There were, however, times when I wondered where the story was really going, and the middle part of the show dragged a little. Because I was familiar with the music and the story beforehand, this didn’t bother me so much because I knew the direction in which it was heading, but I could certainly understand why others may find it taking its slow time to get anywhere.
That being said, every aspect of the show really comes together to make it an enjoyable one. With direction from Kirstie Davis, the music, choreography, design and talent all coincide for a great production.