What would happen if Annie married Daddy Warbucks? Love from Judy, presented for the first time this side of the Atlantic at Musicals Tonight!, answers that question. The show follows an orphan with a secret benefactor whom she falls in love with -- although her Daddy Longlegs is not bald or old.
The show opens at the John Grier Orphanage around Mardi Gras time. The main character of the show is Judy Abbotts (Vanessa Lemonides), an 18-year-old orphan with saucy spunk. The only woman trustee of the orphanage, Grace (Valerie A. Hill), is convinced Judy should go to college. She talks the new trustee, Jervis Pendleton (Julian Rebolledo), into funding her education.
Abbotts excitedly leaves her nightmarish past behind and embarks to school. Jervis, wishing to remain anonymous, instructs Grace to just inform her that some old guy named John Smith has become her guardian. Judy falls in love with Jervis, unaware that he knows about her past, so she refuses to tell him her feelings. But eventually love conquers all.
The book is bulky and verbose. There are some snappy one-liners, but for the most part it would need serious tightening to be produced commercially. The score is decent. There are some really good numbers, such as the title song; "Dumb, Dumb, Dumb" (a song by the blonde about being stereotyped); and Jervis's big ballad, "My Own True Love."
The best reason to see the show, aside from the fact that this will probably be the only production of it, was the cast. As always, Musical Tonight! assembled an enchanting ensemble. They were led by Vanessa Lemonides, who captured both the sweetness and the spiciness of Judy. Furthermore, she showed off a pure, powerful voice that thrills in all of her numbers, even the banal ones.
The direction and choreography by Thomas Mills were clever as always, especially when the binders (which the cast read from throughout) were used as props and even in dance numbers. The show moved at a swift pace; unfortunately, there was a limit to how fast they could get through some of the superfluous scenes.
Love from Judy is a charming, old-fashioned musical. It would never run today, but it is nice to imagine a time when it would. Musicals Tonight! is like a time machine, bringing the audience back to another time when happy endings were rife and expected.
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Copyright 2003 Seth Bisen-Hersh