On Theater: 'Daddy Long Legs' tops Laguna list

The Laguna Playhouse saved the best for last this year. Its production of the original musical "Daddy Long Legs" proved the best in show for 2010, a year that saw several excellent and innovative attractions.

This column dubbed the show "the most heartwarming, fully realized offering from the Laguna Playhouse in this, its 90th season" and praised its two-character cast, Megan McGinnis and Robert Adelman Hancock. John Caird, who staged the original production of "Les Miserables," adapted the script and directed the Laguna production.

Hershey Felder's "George Gershwin Alone," one of three one-man shows he put on at the playhouse during 2010, ranked No. 2 on this column's scorecard.

"Devotees of the great Gershwin now have a shrine at which to gather — the Laguna Playhouse, where a master pianist and superb actor, Hershey Felder, is presenting his one-man show 'George Gershwin Alone,'" is how I put it at the time.

Another American musical legend, Ethel Merman, inspired the third-ranking show, "Ethel Merman's Broadway," directed by Christopher Powich. The summer production, Roger Bean's "Life Could Be a Dream," finished a rousing fourth.

As for individual accomplishments, few performances could approach Felder's terrific Gershwin — let alone his Chopin and Beethoven, whom he also recreated during 2010. He was, indeed, "a contemporary musical genius who hits all the right notes in a compelling production."

Top honors in the actress category must be shared by two performers — Megan McGinnis in "Daddy Long Legs" and Rita McKenzie in her one-woman show "Ethel Merman's Broadway."

"McGinnis brings a glorious voice to the part as well as a convincing grasp of the character," is the way this column put it.

In the Merman show, "Ethel Merman was a driving force on Broadway, and Rita McKenzie shows us why."

Also impressing among actors in Laguna were Jay Johnson in his ventriloquist act dubbed "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" and Jeffry Denman in "I Loved Lucy." Another memorable performance was that of Robert Adelman Hancock in "Daddy Long Legs."

Diane J. Findlay's acerbic Lucille Ball in "I Loved Lucy" lingers in the memory, along with the entire cast of "Life Could Be a Dream," the '50s favorite.

We'll see more of Hershey Felder in 2011, beginning Jan. 2 with a special matinee of "Hershey Felder's Great American Songbook." He'll return later in the season with a tribute to Leonard Bernstein.

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