Daddy Long Legs

Layout 1The Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of Daddy Long Legs under the direction of Ted Pappas, once again demonstrates theatre at its best. This subtle and nuanced production is the perfect balance of all the elements of theatre that combine to present in an evening of theatre magic.

The story of Daddy Long Legs celebrates the connection of lives brought together by unlikely circumstances. The cast is only two but the connection between the characters fills the stage.

It is set between 1908 and 1912 in a time when there was no instant communications by email, text or tweet or phone.  Letters were written and you yearned for a response that sometimes never came.

Daddy Long Legs is the story of Miss Jerusha Abbott, the oldest resident of The John Grier Home, a New England orphanage.  When she turns eighteen a mysterious benefactor decides to pay for her college education. There is one condition, she must write him a monthly letter, express no gratitude and not to expect any replies.PPTdaddylonglegs024

Prior to learning her good fortune, she notices from her window a man leaving the orphanage. She sees him in shadows and imagines him to be a very tall distinguished older gentleman. In her first letter, she begins to identify him as Daddy Long Legs and over time treats him more and more as the father figure she has never known.

Through her letters we see Jerusha transform from a sheltered and naive orphan girl into a confident and independent college educated woman. As he reads her letters, Daddy Long Legs becomes more enamored with this enchanting young woman. She reveals to “Daddy” a developing relationship with Jervis Pendleton, a well to do younger uncle of one of her roommates.

What makes Daddy Long Legs so compelling is what we in the audience have known all along. Jervis is actually her benefactor. His mother passed away when he was eleven and his father is absent from his life.  As Jervis reads her letters aloud we learn he is a surprisingly kind and caring man.  Although their circumstances are very different, he feels a strong connection to Jerusha and yet struggles to tell her the truth of their connection, never replying to her letters until….PPTdaddylonglegs096

Jervis and Jerusha are the only two seen on stage; the other characters in the story are brought to life by her letters.  Allan Snyder (recently relocated to our fair city) and Danielle Bowen are perfectly cast as Jervis and Jerusha.  Snyder is the more accomplished actor and Bowen is early in her professional career, that perspective and their age proximity gives them great chemistry on stage. He gives just the right amount of angst to Jervis as he struggles with what to do about his increasing affection for Jerusha. Bowen’s Jerusha conveys the right enthusiasm of a teenage girl along with with the wisdom and longing of a person who has never really been outside of the orphanage her entire life.

Ted Pappas once again he proves his directorial skills and sensitivity in Daddy Long Legs. The transformation of Jerusha from eighteen-year-old orphan is subtle and nuanced; a different dress, a different hat, a more confident carriage. The show is two hours, but it seems like we have been with her every day.PPTdaddylonglegs062

The orchestra made up of piano, cello and guitar under the direction of long time Public collaborator Wade Russo perfectly underscores the vocals. The musicians are on stage, and yet you almost forget they are there. The transition into the musical numbers is so natural and easy you almost don’t notice. Be it solos or duets Snyder and Bowens performances are first rate.

Pappas uses Michael Schweikardt’s scenic design to its optimum, but subtlety again rules. Jervis’ office is elevated upstage. It is decked out like a proper gentlemen’s library, a safe perch from which he “watches” Jerusha. Hers is an open more simple space, as it would be in the orphanage or college dorm and her letters are what connects them.

Theatregoers left the O’Reilly last night reminded of what makes life special, the connection we celebrate that develops between two people. Might as well change the name to Pittsburgh Perfect Theater!  Thanks Ted for another night of theatre magic.

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Daddy Long Legs is playing now through April 9th at the O’Reilly Theatre. Tickets 412-316-1600 or online at https://ppt.org/calendar

Photos courtesy of Michael Henninger

5 Musicals You Don’t Want to Miss This Spring

Pittsburgh theatregoers have a great mix of musicals to choose from this spring. Our preview features five shows that offer a mix of style, period and contemporary relevance. Two of them are new to Pittsburgh, Daddy Long Legs from the Public Theatre and Violet from Front Porch Theatricals.  The classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes will be offered by the McKeesport Little Theatre and the contemporary hit Dream Girls from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre. Rounding out the mix and out of today’s headlines is the Duquesne Red Masquers’ production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.Layout 1

Pittsburgh Public Theatres second musical of the season is Daddy Long Legs, the story of Miss Jerusha Abbott, who is the oldest resident of a New England orphanage. When she turns eighteen, a mysterious benefactor, Jervis Pendleton, decides to pay for her college education. There is one condition, she must write him a monthly letter and not expect any reply.

During the course of her education, Jerusha begins to imagine the woman she could become which leads to critical thinking about religion, the social issues of the day, and politics.

The story is set between 1908 and 1912 and Daddy Long Legs is a story of emotional growth told in song by both characters – as she’s composing and he’s reading her letters.

Pittsburgh’s own Allan Snyder plays Jervis. Audiences will remember him from PMT’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and the CLO’s 39 Steps. Danielle Bowen plays Jerusha.

The New York Times described Daddy Long Legs as “a great treat,” and Variety called it “a wholesome tuner in tune with the times.” Daddy Long Legs has been touching hearts for more than 100 years. Ted Pappas’ new production at the Public is “guaranteed to continue the tradition.”

Pittsburgh Public Theatre’s Daddy Long Legs

Playing March 9th through April 9th at the O’Reilly Theatre

Tickets 412-316-1600 or online at https://ppt.org/calendardream girls

American music has undergone many changes from the big band sound of the forties to rhythm and blues, to the new American sound of Motown. In 1962 even though Elvis was king and we listened to the Beatles, American’s were dancing to the new beat of The Supremes and other girl groups. Dream Girls tells the story of the The Dreamettes, a hopeful Black girl group from Chicago who enter the famous Amateur Night talent competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

The musical explores the relationships between the girls, their boyfriends and managers as the chase their respective dreams.

It is also about the behind-the-scenes reality of the entertainment industry that made this cultural phenomenon possible. The subject matter of this play deals with a musical contribution to America of such importance that only now — decades later —  we are beginning to understand.

“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and “One Night Only” are just two of the great songs from Dream Girls that have become part of the canon of modern musical theatre.

Dream Girls from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre with performances at the Byham Theater March 9th to 19th. For tickets call 412-456-666 or at https://trustarts.org/production/49516BB andrew j

Pittsburgh’s oldest amateur theatre company, The Duquesne University Red Masquers certainly had excellent foresight in picking Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as their Spring Musical. After all, our President considers himself a modern day Andrew Jackson.

The shows opening song, “Populism Yea Yea”, reflects the desire of Jackson to bring political power back to the public and away from the elite. The subject of immigration today is a topic of much discussion. In Jackson’s era it was native Indian lands. At first, the citizenry meets Jackson’s exhilarating cowboy-like governing tactics with great enthusiasm. But, as the problems grow tougher, the public begins to resent him.

Jackson decides he must take ultimate responsibility for the nation’s choices and autocratically declares that he alone will be the one to make the difficult policy decision.

At the Broadway opening in 2010, The New York Times noted “there is no show in town that more astutely reflects the state of this nation than Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at Duquesne University Red Masquers playing 

March 15-19.

Tickets at http://www.duqredmasquers.com/purchase-ticketsanythign goes

Are you are looking for a lighthearted break from reality with quirky characters, great songs and fabulous dance routines?  The McKeesport Musical Theatres production of the classic Cole Porter musical comedy Anything Goes is just your ticket.

The S.S. American is sailing between New York and England with a comically colorful assemblage of passengers: Reno Sweeney, a popular nightclub singer and former evangelist, her pal Billy Crocker, a lovelorn Wall Street broker who has come aboard to try to win the favor of his beloved Hope Harcourt (who is engaged to another passenger, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh), and a second-rate conman named Moonface Martin, aka “Public Enemy #13.” Song, dance, and farcical antics ensue as Reno and Moonface try to help Billy win the love of his life.

Anything Goes features s some of musical theater’s most memorable standards, including “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “You’re the Top,” and of course, the title song.

According to Linda Baker, President of MLT “This is one of the classic musicals that unfortunately not enough millennials have had the opportunity to experience.” So disconnect and go see it.

Anything Goes at McKeesport Little Theatre May 5th to 21st. Tickets available at http://mckeesportlittletheater.com

Acclaimed Director Robyne Parish has returned to PPrintittsburgh to live after spending five seasons as the Artistic Director of the Gilbert Theater in North Carolina. Her second directorial assignment since returning is the Tony nominated Violet presented by Front Porch Theatricals.

Violet is a scarred woman who is traveling across the 1964 Deep South toward a miracle. She is looking for the healing touch of an evangelist that will make her beautiful. Though she may not succeed in being healed, Violet is able to repair those injuries that lie deeper than her skin. On the way she meets a young, African-American Soldier whose love for her reaches far past her physical “imperfections”.

I asked Robyne about her approach to the production. “One of the most interesting themes in this play, besides the complicated relationship Violet has with her Father, are the parallels between Flick and Violet. A black man in the south judged by the color of his skin and a white woman being judged by her scar. As an audience we will experience Violets growth, discovery of love, beauty, enlightenment and ultimately redemption.”

“Patrons will discover themselves in the characters in Violet. It’s the story of family, of first love, of desperation and of hope. They will identify with these folks and recognize them in an intimate way some shows may not allow. This is an intense and uplifting play about real people with real hopes, dreams and desires and real loss, failure and disappointment. This is a play about life.”

Violet from Front Porch Theatricals is in performance May 19th to 28th at the New Hazlett Center for the Performing Arts located in Pittsburgh’s historic North Side

Tickets https://www.showclix.com/events/12886

The spring of 2017 promises something for every theatregoer to enjoy.