Director Michael Windsor on Monumental Theatre’s ‘Daddy Long Legs’

The musical Daddy Long Legs is coming to the DMV area, thanks to Monumental Theatre Company.

Michael Windsor directs Monumental Theatre Company's production of 'Daddy Long Legs.' Photo courtesy of Monumental Theatre Company.
Michael Windsor directs Monumental Theatre Company’s production of ‘Daddy Long Legs.’ Photo courtesy of Monumental Theatre Company.

Monumental Theatre Company “seeks to connect emerging artists, specifically those of the millennial generation, with the larger community by giving them a platform from which to promote their work to the public.” Monumental Theatre is the recipient of the 2018 John Aniello Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company from theatreWashington. The company has also been nominated for multiple 2019 Helen Hayes Awards.

The two-person musical production of Daddy Long Legs tells the story of a young woman and her young mysterious benefactor, and the love that grows between them by way of handwritten letters. The production is set in the early twentieth century. The Daddy Long Legs story is derived from the 1912 novel by Jean Webster. The musical has contemporary music and lyrics by Paul Gordon with a Drama Desk Award-winning book by John Caird.

Wanting to learn more about the production of Daddy Long Legs, I took the opportunity to chat with director Michael Windsor. “Daddy Long Legs tells a beautiful love story using only two actors and mostly letters from one character to the other,” said Windsor. “It’s unique and romantic – storytelling at its finest.” Windsor was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for his work directing Monumental Theatre Company’s 2018 production of Brooklyn the Musical.

The Daddy Long Legs cast includes Caroline Wolfson (Keegan’s As You Like It and 1st Stage’s Fly by Night) as the college-aged orphan Jerusha Abbott and Kurt Boehm (Signature’s Billy Elliott) as a wealthy, altruistic Jervis Pendleton. Marika Countouris is the production’s Music Director.

David Siegel: Why did Monumental decide to produce Daddy Long Legs?

Michael Windsor: Well, to start, the show is simply gorgeous. The show blends a classic, period story with very contemporary musical theater songs. John Caird’s Drama Desk Award-winning book and Paul Gordon’s soaring score pair perfectly to tell a beautiful, simple, rich story. Though the show takes place in 1908-1912, it is a timeless story with themes that are relatable across all generations. As a company with a mission of getting young people into the theater, Daddy Long Legs falls right in line; the way the story is presented is unconventional and modern. It’s not your grandparents’ theater, but, instead, theater for now, for today’s audiences (it just happens to be a story set in the early 1900s).

How does Monumental’s Daddy Long Legs differ from the past versions seen in movies or in the original novel?

The movie is its own beast; there were definitely some “Hollywood-ifications” that were made. Reading the book, I was shocked by just how similar it was to the musical. Some lines are pulled directly from the novel (the opening number, for example); which I think is amazing! There are several more characters in the novel, while the musical has only two: Jerusha and Jervis. The other characters are referenced in the musical and still play a part, but are not physically part of the action.

I understand that Monumental Theatre will be partnering with the English Department at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, to give students a “behind-the-scenes” look at Daddy Long Legs. Please tell readers more.

Of course! Monumental has been lucky enough have a residency at EHS since 2016, and with Daddy we’re taking that partnership a step farther. Episcopal is a 100% boarding school. In the past, the English department has brought in touring Shakespeare groups for a single night to expose the entire campus to theater. Many students (and faculty) saw this as another obligation required of them; it became something they dreaded going to, but were required to. (Definitely not the best exposure to theater.) The goal with this partnership is to really offer the campus an “open door policy” into how a professional theater show is put on. Some students are reading the novel and will do a project comparing the two mediums, others will simply sit in rehearsals and then come see the finished product to witness the process from page to stage. And with shows across several weekends, it is the hope that students no longer feel “forced” to see the show, but rather can go on their own time – and it’s right in their backyard!

Please tell us more about the musical elements?

Since the musical only contains two voices, a man and a woman, Gordon had quite the challenge to make the score interesting and compelling for the full two-hour show. The songs he’s written use the voices to his full advantage to support Caird’s book; with tight harmonies, gorgeous and moving ballads and powerful melodies – all backed by a three-piece band, consisting of piano, guitar, and cello.

If you could invite audiences to the Monumental production of Daddy Long Legs, what would you say to them?

Get ready for an amazing night of theater; a sweet love story told in an unconventional way with some of the most beautiful music, and starring two of the top actors in DC. It’s not to be missed!

Music Director Marika Countouris added, “We’re thrilled to be working with Caroline Wolfson and Kurt Boehm. Their voices bring Paul Gordon’s rich score to life making Daddy Long Legs a must-see!”

Daddy Long Legs, presented by Monumental Theatre Company, plays March 7-30, 2019,  at the Ainslie Arts Center— 3900 West Braddock Road in Alexandria, Virginia. Purchase tickets online.