Peppermint Creek Theatre Co. presents empowering rags-to-riches love story


A trustee of the John Grier Home for Orphans, Jervis Pendleton (Jake Przybyla) funds the college education of select orphans, sight unseen, based on essays they have written. Although he typically chooses male students, on this occasion he selects Jerusha Abbott (Rachel Daugherty). 

The rules for this sponsorship require her to write letters to the unnamed donor monthly but never expect a reply. Pendleton chooses the pen name “John Smith,” but because Abbott saw a long-legged man leaving the orphanage the day she was informed of her good fortune, she dubs him “Daddy Long Legs.”

As anyone who has read classics by the Bronte sisters or seen “My Fair Lady” knows, plucky women have a way of winning a man’s heart. In this case, Abbott’s persistence in attempting to forge a relationship with her sponsor despite his silence eventually intrigues him. He meets her as Jervis while continuing to maintain the silent benefactor persona. 

Conflict eventually arises as Abbott blossoms and tests her independence, sparking jealousy in Pendleton that he doesn’t understand or handle well. The more Daddy Long Legs tries to control her, the more he pushes her away. 

Daugherty and Przybyla are simply fantastic, shining brightest when they harmonize. Daugherty is sunny and playfully provocative, and Przybyla is especially charming when exasperated. 

Bestsellers Books & Coffee Co. is a novel venue for the play, offering the opportunity to enjoy coffee or adult beverages while watching the performance. In addition to directing, Chad Swan-Badgero designed the luxurious set and filled it with period props that create a warm and inviting environment.

The three-person orchestra, made up of John Dillingham and Yoshihiro and Mary Fukagawa, is the perfect size for the space, and the combination of keyboard, guitar and cello is simply lovely. The musical (not to be confused with the 1955 movie musical based on the same story, starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron) is based on a 1912 novel by Jean Webster, but this modern interpretation by Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon and Tony-winning librettist and director John Caird is fresh and witty, poking fun at the notion that women were ever considered less-than. 

Although the play focuses on themes of female empowerment, particularly through the pursuit of knowledge and education, there is a hidden nugget that is especially meaningful to a 2023 audience. After Abbott recounts a particularly miserable day in a letter to Daddy, she has the self-awareness to put it in perspective. 

“It isn’t the big troubles in life that require character,” she writes. “Anyone can rise to a crisis and face a crushing tragedy with courage, but to meet the petty hazards of the day with a laugh — I really think that requires spirit.”

Following the stress of the past few years in particular, audiences can certainly understand that sentiment. “Daddy Long Legs” is a refreshing piece of fun theater that provides more than a few laughs to help slough off the petty hazards of the day.


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