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The Great Gatsby

Jeremy Jordan, Eva Noblezada (Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

The Great Gatsby

By Deirdre Donovan

Directed by Marc Bruni, a musical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's landmark novel The Great Gatsby comes to Broadway this season with all the glitz and glamor of the Roaring Twenties.  Following its sold-out world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J. last fall, this musical extravaganza winged into the Big Apple in late April, landing at the capacious Broadway Theatre.

The good news is that it's a visually stunning production, a veritable feast for the eyes.  The not-so-good news is that the book by Kait Kerrigan doesn't have the connective tissue that would allow the audience to know just who is telling the story throughout. Although the character Nick Carraway is the designated narrator in Fitzgerald's work, and Kerrigan at first seems to replicate this framing device, she intermittently shoehorns in other principals to shed light on the titular character.

Set in the fictive Long Island town of West Egg, The Great Gatsby is the story of a mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby, who tries to regain the lost love of his youth, Daisy Buchanan, a product of old money and now married to the wealthy Tom Buchanan, a former polo player and shameless philanderer.  Gatsby, well-known for hosting Dionysian parties at his opulent mansion, scarcely enjoys his own entertainments. Ever hopeful that he can relive the past, he devises a plot, in which Daisy's cousin, Nick Carraway, a bond salesman on Wall Street and his next-door neighbor, arranges to bring Daisy and Gatsby together for an afternoon tea at his cottage. Tragedy ensues.

Led by Jeremy Jordan as Jay Gatsby and Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan, John Zdrojeski completes the ménage à trois as Tom Buchanan. The other five principals entangled in this story of excess include Noah J. Ricketts as transplanted Mid-westerner Nick Carraway, Samantha Pauly as golf pro Jordan Baker, Sarah Chase as Tom's girl Myrtle Wilson, Paul Whitty as her jealous husband George Wilson, and Eric Anderson as underworld figure Meyer Wolfsheim.  


Add the supporting cast, ensemble, and additional party-goers, and you witness 28 performers crossing the boards during this two and a half hour show. Indeed, this production mostly succeeds in replicating Fitzgerald's seminal novel, capturing the grandeur that the author so artfully imbedded in his 1925 work.


Jeremy Jordan, Noah J. Ricketts (Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

The action unspools on Paul Tate Depoo III's dream of a set that boldly blends Art Nouveau with industrialism.  It boasts 50 set changes, with the audience able to see such jaw-dropping spectacles as a faux willow tree consisting of 3.600 shimmering gold chains, a bandstand platform that accommodates 9 musicians, the fateful pool with railings that pop up from the orchestra pit, not to mention the visual projections that are superimposed on every available surface on stage. Little wonder Depoo garnered the Outer Critics Circle Award for Set Design.

If the set design is impressive, Linda Cho's costumes complement it with the sartorial splendor of the Jazz Age.  With 350 outfits to grace the cast, Cho ensures that each one enhances the uniqueness of the character or adds to the ambience of any given scene. Whether it's Gatsby's distinctive suits, Daisy's chic dresses and elegant hats, or the sea of flapper dresses worn by the guests at Gatsby's parties, Cho's choices are right on the money. And, oh yes. Cho also got tapped for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Costume Design.

Dominique Kelley doesn't disappoint with his choreography.  It looks back to the twenties but clearly resonates with today's cultural moment. He has dances of almost every stripe in this show: jazz, tap, ballroom, street, and more. But no matter from what angle you view his choreography, it inevitably expresses freedom. For no matter how furiously the dancers shimmy and whirl, they never touch or try to contain their partner in an embrace (except in the ballroom dance numbers).

Of course, a musical isn't a musical unless it has music. Jason Howland (score) and Nathan Tysen (lyrics) make sure that The Great Gatsby has plenty of it. They have crafted 18 songs that include the jazzy opening number "Roaring On," sung by Ricketts, as Nick Carraway, with the company.  A more reflective duet "My Green Light," sung by Jordan and Noblezada, poignantly closes out Act 1. Then in Act 2, Noblezada, as Daisy, brings much pathos to "Beautiful Little Fool," a song inspired by the iconic words in Fitzgerald's novel. Or as Noblezada croons it, with her sterling pipes: "The best thing a girl can be in this world/Is a beautiful little fool."  

The acting is excellent.  Jeremy Jordan, in the titular role, and Eva Noblezada, as Daisy, are the true standouts. That said, a shout out belongs to Paul Whitty who acquits himself well in the unenviable part of the Valley of Ashes' car mechanic George Wilson.

Noah J. Ricketts and the Ensemble (Photo: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Indeed, The Great Gatsby arrives with a flawed book on the Great White Way. But theatergoers who hunger to see a live musical staging of Fitzgerald's 1925 masterpiece with an eye-popping set, exquisite period costumes, and a first-rate cast who can sing, this is your golden opportunity. 

The Great Gatsby

At the Broadway Theatre

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Running time: 2 hours; 30 minutes with intermission.