DADDY LONG LEGS is a two person, chamber musical based on a 1912 novel of written correspondence, utilizing a three-piece band consisting of keyboard, guitar and cello. If you haven’t already run screaming from the room, then this charming jewel box of a musical is for you. Written and directed by the inimitable John Caird with music by Paul Gordon (the team behind JANE EYRE), the show has little relation to the Leslie Caron/Fred Astaire movie and there is no dancing at all, what it does have is beautiful singing, a talented cast, lovely costumes and some insightful writing with a predictable romantic ending. In the tiny Davenport Theatre, every seat is excellent. This is a refined evening of entertainment, but not everyone’s cup of sweet jasmine tea.
I think Benedict Cumberbatch is a very talented actor and in SHERLOCK and THE IMITATION GAME he gave very compelling, textured portrayals. Unfortunately, in the Barbican HAMLET his performance is broad with few layers. When you are playing one of the most complex roles in history, you hope for depth. I’m afraid there’s not much here.
Lyndsey Turner’s direction is acceptable, a little showy and she has rearranged the script to suit her needs, but serviceable. The rest of the cast is fine, except Ciaran Hinds who shows us what is missing from the lead. Perhaps with a different director, Mr. Cumberbatch could have soared.
If you like dogs, I recommend you go see the current revival of SYLVIA, A. R. Gurney’s sweet canine love letter. It’s about a man who is smitten with a dog that annoys the bejesus out of his wife. A lot of the laughs come from the charming Annaleigh Ashford’s embodiment of the dog. Set on New York’s Upper West Side, Ms. Ashford barks (“Hey, hey, hey.”), sniffs and chews her way into our hearts.
It’s tough having a show centered on a expressively limited being, I’m talking about Matthew Broderick not the dog, but he holds his own, if still using his trademark sing-song, whiny delivery. Robert Sella, playing three roles; a man, a woman and a “Pat,” is uniquely funny in every role. I couldn’t help wondering if his “Pat” was patterned on Tommy Tune? Daniel Sullivan’s crisp direction still allows the emotional punch to carry weight. David Rockwell beautifully designs the set, showing both inside the apartment and Central Park.
But the real star of the evening is Julie White. Anyone who has ever seen her on stage can tell you. She’s a magician. She takes the role of the villain and makes her a real person: self-aware when she is being strident and ultimately able to break your heart with pathos. So I guess I have to take that back, if you like dogs OR if you like to see a great actress performing the heck out of a role, go see SYLVIA.