MUSICAL REVIEW: Daddy Long Legs ★★★★★

Daddy Long Legs
The Barn Theatre, Cirencester
Wednesday 2nd October - Saturday 2nd November 2019

As Autumn creeps around, the pumpkin spice is back, the nights are getting darker, and The Barn Theatre are bringing the warmth and unlocking the secret to happiness in the form of John Caird and Paul Gordon's musical, Daddy Long Legs, based on the 1912 book of the same name. So far this season, The Barn has seen them produce the intrepid ‘Henry V’, trailblazed their way through ‘The 39 Steps’, but has truly peaked in ‘Daddy Long Legs’, a production which simply takes your breath away with thanks to every aspect from the cast to the creative team.

With the story consisting of many minor characters, there are two at the centre who bring gravitas to the proceedings; Jerusha Abbott and Jervis ‘Daddy’ Pendleton, who are stunning portrayed by Rebecca Jayne-Davies and Ryan Bennett respectfully. Alone, the two show huge amounts of energy and sheer brilliance in voicing so many of the characters peers, but as Abbott and Pendelron reach an unprecedented new level of wonder; Jayne-Davies in particular is a marvel on stage as she persists with the curiosity of what her Benefactor ‘Daddy’ looks like, whilst her voice is utterly beautiful, sending a real spine-tingling moment during the angelic, uplifting and heart-pounding ‘Like Other Girls’. 

Bennett equally charms, delights and shines, especially during the opening moments of the second act; his rendition of ‘My Manhattan’ is smooth and effortless, and when both on stage interacting with one another, our two leads are undeniable with chemistry which oozes from their expressions alone. Kirstie Davis clearly has an eye for detail with unison and charm playing a huge part in her direction, bringing such gentle characters to life who we really grow to love along the way.

In conjunction with our leads, we are joined and get transfixed into the world dating between 1908 - 1912 with the help from the three piece band, made up of Charlie Ingles (MD and Pianist), Rosalind Ford (Cellist), and Alex Crawford (Guitarist). Together they bring Paul Gordon’s music to life with a rich presence, and equally are integrated within the story to help carry the flow, whether through bell ringing, handing over cups and saucers, or simply being ignored when offering to take items of clothing, something which was highlighted from Crawford in the second act; it’s a humorous and beautiful touch which continues to see the production cement itself as the whole company assist in bringing this UK premiere to life on stage. 

Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner alone deserves the highest accolade in bringing Gregor Donnelly’s jaw-dropping set to life, managing to completely elevate the whole backdrop to bring individual letters to life as they seemingly suspend and breakaway from the background, which are made up of so many more handwritten stories shared between our newfound friends. The way in which Tanner and Donnelly’s designs smoothly pioneers throughout is remarkable, right down the littlest of moments in the form of rain, the Manhattan skyline, and shooting stars.

Overall, Daddy Long Legs is a beautiful, heartwarming, and phenomenal production; unclear as to how it has taken so long to see such an underlying production being brought richly back to existence, with a team like The Barn holding the reigns, where anything they touch seemingly turns to a theatrical spectacle, there seems to be no slowing down from what has been an incredibly successful season so far!

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