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The Long Beach International City Theatre presents a musical love story

With only two actors, Daddy Long Legs manages to tell a humorous tale that begins with charity and crescendos with love.

Dino+Nicandros+play+Jarvis+in+the+International+City+Theater%27s+comedy-romance+production+of+%22Daddy+Longlegs.%22%0A
Dino Nicandros play Jarvis in the International City Theater's comedy-romance production of

Dino Nicandros play Jarvis in the International City Theater's comedy-romance production of "Daddy Longlegs."

Tracey Roman

Tracey Roman

Dino Nicandros play Jarvis in the International City Theater's comedy-romance production of "Daddy Longlegs."

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Audience members watched Friday night as Jerusha Abbott poured her heart out in the musical production “Daddy Long Legs” produced by Mary Jo DuPrey at International City Theater.

The play begins with a mostly empty stage, home to a few pieces of simple furniture, which served as the John Grier Home orphanage in the early 20th century. Soothing melodies of a cello and guitar set the scene with the help of musical director Bill Wolfe.

The female protagonist Jerusha Abbott, played by Ashley Ruth Jones, is the oldest orphan in the home and an aspiring writer. The musical begins, as to be expected, with Jerusha breaking out in a song centered around her dissatisfaction with being the oldest orphan at the home. The opening song is powerful, thought-provoking and satirically humorous as Jerusha jokes about her age and status in the orphanage, setting the tone for the rest of the musical.

Jerusha’s life is turned upside down by the appearance of a benefactor who takes an interest in her potential as a writer. She dubs the unknown man “Daddy Long Legs” due his height and long “spidery” limbs after seeing his shadow in a doorway. While it takes Jerusha nearly the entire play to discover the identity of “Daddy,” viewers are quick to discover his name is Jervis Pendleton, played by Dino Nicandros, and he is stinking rich.

The choice for Jervis to remain anonymous to Jerusha throughout the play was one that aided in furthering the plot line along. Audience members were allowed to focus on the play from Jerusha’s perspective, which in turn allowed them to sympathize with and appreciate the growth of her character throughout the production.

As the play progresses and Jerusha’s writing skills develop, the humour of her letters intensifies, immersing the audience in her experiences as a parentless collegiate student falling in love through letter correspondence. Through her thoughtful use of jargon, wit and unconcealed humor, Jerusha personalizes her experiences through four years of schooling and paints a descriptive picture for the audience. The show does not break the fourth wall, although the actors dance dangerously close to the edge by acting alongside one another less than a foot away from the audience.

Due to only having two cast members, the plot is extremely simple but manages to remain engaging. This oftentimes requires a more sophisticated sense of humor to enjoy certain aspects. Many of the jokes recurred frequently or required inside knowledge on the subject of the joke.

One such example is Jerusha referring to Daddy Longlegs as an old man, as she is unaware for the majority of the play that Daddy Longlegs is Jervis, a youthful man. This running gag, as well as the sarcastic tone of Jerusha’s letters, elicited more than a few chuckles from the audience.

The entire dialogue of the musical consists of back-and-forth engagement between the two characters, but in many of the scenes the characters do not speak directly to each other. Constant musical banter between the two creates a harmonious balance between female and male perspectives without overwhelming the audience and assists in making the story life-like and personable.

This makes for scenes that are equal parts frustrating and intriguing, as the play builds up the meeting of the two in a fiery crescendo of love and music.

The plot, though beautifully supported musically, was at times tired and predictable. Love stories are notorious for their inevitably to end in tragedy or resolution, and “Daddy LongLegs” concludes with what can be considered a typical happy ending.

While the play, overall, was pleasant and the music phenomenal, for those seeking something more thrilling or original, “Daddy Longlegs” falls short.

Shows will run through March 11 at the International City Theater with showings at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $47 on Thursdays and Fridays, $49 on Saturdays and Sundays and can be purchased by calling 562-436-4610 or at InternationalCityTheatre.org.

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