As I left the PCPA Marian Theatre last Saturday night, I felt a little bit sad — but not because of the latest production, “Daddy Long Legs,” or because of the performances.
What made me sad was that there was not a full house to experience the tremendous performances and fully satisfying presentation.
I must admit I was a little concerned about the musical, which has a cast of only two and features them writing letters to each other. The concept worried me because of the big stage at the theater. Maybe the production would be better served on the smaller Severson Theatre stage.
Boy, was I wrong. Starting with a beautiful set design by David Farley and a live band sitting backstage, “Daddy Long Legs” is extremely entertaining with two outstanding performances by Ephie Aardema and Kevin Earley.
With a voice of an angel, the very charming Aardema plays Jerusha, a teenage orphan who finds out that a mysterious gentleman will pay for her schooling and living expenses while she goes to college.
She is not allowed ever to know who he is, and her one main requirement is to write him every month about her progress.
Of course her curiosity about her benefactor runs rampant and she continuously tries with her letters to get information about him. She believes she saw him once in the shadows at the orphanage, so she comes up with a unique nickname for her benefactor.
As Jerusha flitters around the stage, she displays a youthful exuberance and also expresses her fears and loneliness, but as she progresses through her four years of college, she becomes a strong and opinionated woman.
Solid as the mysterious man, Jervis, Earley does a wonderful job as he reads the letters and makes judgments along the way about her upbringing. He is at times amused by her musings and at others reacts strongly to several negative feelings that she shares.
Earley’s singing voice is wonderful as well, and when the two harmonize on several songs, their voices blend perfectly.
The director is John Caird, who wrote the book for the play and does a wonderful job of keeping the action flowing, despite the fact there are only the two actors.
Paul Gordon wrote the lovely music and lyrics. At times funny and at times quite emotional, the lyrics tell the whole story of the relationship of the two, performed with such ease by the two actors.
A brilliant device used throughout the play is the audience being told what the date is when Jerusha writes each letter. In bold handwriting, the date and the location appear magically, then simply disappear.
Begun as a workshop project at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, the production is beautifully played out under Caird’s leadership. Under musical direction by Julie McBride, the music sets the mood perfectly and Aardema and Earley perform the songs in a very touching and romantic way.
There have been times I really doubted whether I would care for a given performance at PCPA and wasn’t sure it would work, but each time I have been pleasantly surprised. I feel that any of the regular theater-goers who missed the first weekend of “Daddy Long Legs” made a huge mistake passing on this production.
With a truly heartfelt and ultimately romantic story, wonderful songs and brilliant performances by both actors, “Daddy Long Legs” should not be missed. While walking out, I heard a woman say, “If you don’t get a tear in your eye, then you must be made of wood.”
That about sums it up. Get your tickets as soon as you can, or you will miss a brilliant and touching theater experience.