Daddy Long Legs is a children's classic novella that many people will have read, not just in Australia, but around the world with it being required reading in English classes in many countries. This classic story of a young orphan lady being sent to college by a mysterious benefactor has now become a musical and makes its brilliant Australian premiere at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
In the early 20th century in the US, a popular genre of books focused on young women finding their place in the world. Daddy Long Legs has become a classic that is still relevant today. Written as a series of letters, it addresses a number of themes. The most commonly cited theme is it is a story about how our environment shapes us, but also about the choices that we make guide us through this environment. Beyond that, there are also many additional issues being addressed in the story.
To understand the influence of this work you have to realise that since its publication in 1912, it has been made into numerous movies, including four in English, one in Dutch, two in Indian languages and one in Korean, and of course, you know something has become a cultural staple when it gets a Japanese anime, and Daddy Long Legs has had two of these and even a Japanese charity named after the book.
Being based on a novella that is a series of letters between two people, the production only has the two principles and is built around the relationship that builds through the letters. Jerusha Abbott is played by the very talented Ella Macrokanis who has been in TV series such as Safe Harbour and Family Law as well as the movie The Butterfly Tree. She is joined on stage by Shaun Kohlman as Jarvis Pendleton who brings the refined yet boyish charm to the role.
Image of Ella Macrokanis courtesy of Passion Productions
The staging combines the very formal set area of Jarvis Pendleton's study in the background with a very dynamic environment for every other setting is created using nothing but a selection of luggage. Not only do the many suitcases symbolise that Jerusha' is on a journey but they are also used to create whatever setting is needed, whether it is a cafe, Christmas tree, mountain top or simply used as luggage. It is here among the trappings of travel we also see the direct interactions between Jerusha and Jarvis.
Most importantly in a musical is the songs. In Daddy Long Legs, the plot is less important than the themes, so each theme is addressed by a song, relying on the words from the novel, nearly every song says something and moves Jerusha forward in her personal development. The melodies are a little forgettable, but there is still applause at the end of nearly every song as each one says something valuable to the audience.
The musical isn't a perfect replication of the book, for example in the novella Jerusha changes her name to Judy as part of her reinvention of herself, and to be honest, I can't remember all the details of the original story, but so many concepts from the story are addressed, the musical itself feels densely packed with ideas.
Before and after the show
New Farm and the surrounding area has a lot of places to eat and drink before the show, with the main places to find restaurants along Brunswick and James Streets, you can easy enjoy food or drink at the Powerhouse itself.
Mary Mae's is a great place for a light meal before the show
Mary Mae's on the ground floor is the place for a light meal, while Bar Alto on the first floor is good for either drinks or a bigger meal. Of course, especially for a matinee performance, consider the option of picnicking in the park.
Bar Alto at the Brisbane Powerhouse is the place to have a drink before the show or during the interval
There are a lot of reasons to see this musical. Maybe you read the book when you were a kid, perhaps you want to take your kids to see a musical, or you want to see a musical that has some more depth than most. What you will get is a great performance from Ella Macrokanis, who is supported well by Shaun Kohlman in a well told and engaging story.
Get to the Brisbane Powerhouse to check out this musical