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Daddy Long Legs

Sorry, arachnophiles — the Public’s latest production is not centered on the spindly eight-legged creatures often found huddled en masse in dark corners. No, the musical’s eponymous character is in fact a wealthy benefactor of the bipedal variety, who pays for orphaned protagonist Jerusha Abbott’s schooling and requests only monthly letters from her in return. Jean Webster’s 1912 novel Daddy Long Legs fits nicely alongside its 19th-century predecessors, such as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Centered on a virtuous young woman struggling in poverty borne out of tragedy, Webster sets her protagonist on the path to success via the generosity of a young, handsome and (most importantly) rich man who takes a shine to her when he sees her at the orphanage that she calls home. Drawing from the same sentimentality that’s given us multiple film adaptations of Little Women, Daddy Long Legs was brought to the stage in the aughts by John Caird and Paul Gordon, who previously teamed up on a musical adaptation of Charlotte Brönte’s Jane Eyre. It premiered to mostly positive reception, although critics and audiences alike have sensed “creepy undertones” embedded in the notions of romance peddled in this turn-of-the-century story. Ultimately, anyone enamored with schmaltzy musical adaptations of sentimental American literature will find something to love in Daddy Long Legs, or, at the very least, a safe event to bring along an arachnophobic friend.

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