Megan McGinnis has spent a large chunk of the past few years touring around America in Daddy Long Legs, and now the John Caird/Paul Gordon musical two-hander is touching down at London’s St. James Theatre through December 8. The California-born, New York-based McGinnis is making her West End debut in the show, in which she stars opposite Robert Adelman Hancock. A veteran of such musicals as Les Miserables and Little Women, the latter of which starred her close friend Sutton Foster, McGinnis spoke to Broadway.com within a day of arriving in London about the joys of taking her show on the road and of having a musical that she can honestly call her own.
Welcome to London, and in a show to which you are no stranger!
Thank you! It’s amazing to be here. Rob [co-star Robert Adelman Hancock] and I have done Daddy Long Legs in 13 or 14 theaters across the States, and sometime during the last year, we decided it was time for us to stop touring. Then London came up, and obviously we wanted to do it. I’ve only heard amazing things about what it’s like to put on a play here, and this show is so lovely and smart that I want everyone to see it.
It must be amazing to have such a sustained connection to a show. You premiered Daddy Long Legs in September 2009.
I know, but I worked on Little Women for five years before going to Broadway, so I guess you could say I am very loyal [laughs]. And when you find a show like this one that brings you joy, why leave it—especially when the creative team is so collaborative and you’re part of something where your opinion is respected so much? [Creators] John [Caird] and Paul [Gordon] have said that they feel as if Rob and I know the characters better than they do now, and they totally trust us, which is an extraordinary feeling.
Is the piece ever-evolving?
That’s the thing: Even though we’ve done the show at numerous theaters, we’ve almost never done the same show. It’s so wonderful to be able to step into rehearsals and say, “You know what? We just did the show for four weeks in Cleveland but we found that this line works better if Rob says it instead of me.” When we did our Arizona run last Christmas, we rearranged the order of the second act.
You play Jerusha Abbott, a plucky young woman in 1908 New England in a love story that unfolds via letters. What do you respond to most?
I really do feel as if I’m from another time. People often look at me and have a hard time imagining me in modern shows. Maybe it’s because my hair is curly, and there’s something about my face that makes me seem as if I’m from a century ago. I mean, I’m definitely a California girl, but I was never one for the beach; I’ve always taken to people of another time.
The intimacy must be nice after shows like Les Miserables.
For me, it’s all about stories, and Daddy Long Legs and Les Miz are both good stories, But what’s amazing about John and Paul’s work is that we have played houses from 150 through to 1,300 seats, and the show works in both types of spaces. It is intimate, but what’s surprising is that the show is not so small that you feel, “Oh, it’s just between this person and that person.” And because we actually direct much of it to the audience, it often feels as if there are more people involved, even though there is something about seeing two people for two hours who never leave the stage.
Did you know Jean Webster's epistolary novel from 1912 on which Daddy Long Legs is based?
In fact, I had not read the novel before I auditioned. The book seems to be especially popular in Japan, which is where John’s wife is from, and I believe it was her idea to adapt it to the stage. The musical takes the form of letters, but what is so impressive about the adaptation is that it seems very present and dramatic and as if it is taking place in the moment, even though I am writing about stuff that has happened. Jerusha is so human, and she makes mistakes. Her attitude is something I aspire to and try to gather from every night.
I gather you’re good friends with Sutton Foster.
She’s my best friend: We’ve been in several shows together, plus I sang on her first album and I sing with her at concerts. But who doesn’t love Sutton? We were hoping she would be able to come visit but she can’t because she’s filming Bunheads until the middle of December; she was so bummed about the dates.
How did you two get to know each other?
We met doing Thoroughly Modern Millie, where I was a replacement, so didn’t really get to know her. Later, she knew that I was involved with Little Women [as Beth] and when she was offered [the starring role of Jo], she discussed the show with me. We were doing the out-of-town tryout at Duke University for six weeks, and it’s really easy to bond with someone when you’re playing sisters and you die in front of the other person [laughs].
Beth was the shy sister in Little Women. Was that an apt fit?
I did used to be quite shy, and in fact I still am; I just pretend I’m not [laughs]. But Jerusha’s not shy. That’s something I would never say about her, so maybe playing her gets me out of my shell.
As a former Eponine, are you excited about the forthcoming movie version of Les Miserables?
I am! I just saw the preview last week in the theaters, and I will definitely see the movie. I also want to see Les Miz on stage here. We went to John [Caird]’s house last night for dinner, and we got to drive through the West End and past the Queen’s Theatre.
What’s next for you?
I don’t know, to be honest, but that’s how this business seems to work. What I do know is that I’m getting married next September to Adam Halpin, who was in Glory Days on Broadway and just did Dogfight at Second Stage. He’s coming over to London to be with me in a couple of weeks.
That’s cool! Did you and he meet in a show?
No, we met at an audition. Neither of us got the job, but we got each other, which is so much better!