'Daddy Long Legs' opens in Sarasota

February 6, 2014 

Most people know the 1955 film "Daddy Long Legs," which starred Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.

The 2009 musical "Daddy Long Legs," which opens at Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre on Friday, is highly acclaimed but not nearly as well-known.

Both are based on a 1912 novel "Daddy-Long-Legs," but they're two very different musicals.

"Paul Gordon wrote it as a one-person show," said Kevin Earley, who's playing the title character in the FST production. "Then when John Caird, who directed 'Les Mis' on Broadway, or actually co-directed with Trevor Nunn, got involved, he said 'This needs to be a two-person show.' "

The original novel is a series of letters from a girl to her benefactor. She was the only character in the first incarnation of the musical. Caird wanted the benefactor to be a character. He's now listed as a writer of the show, along with Gordon. Gordon is a Broadway veteran, probably best know for his musical "Jane Eyre."

The stage musical is more contained than the film version, which added a lot of characters, and it also features original music. But the story about a girl from an orphanage who grows up and goes to college remains.

"Daddy Long Legs" has had several successful and lauded stagings since it premiered in Los Angeles five years ago. Earley has played this same role in four previous productions.

Critics have praised its music, its emotional impact and its straightforward storytelling.

Details: various times Feb. 7-April 5 in the Gompertz Theatre at Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. Tickets: $19-$42. Information: 941-366-9000, www.floridastudiotheatre.org.

-- Marty Clear

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