Reviews

The Great Gatsby **1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 28, 2924: It has been said short stories make great theater and film. Novels don’t. If you want proof, buy a ticket for  Broadway’s new musical, The Great Gatsby. With a book by Kait Kerrigan, music composed by Jason Howland and lyrics by Nathan Dylan, the show captures all the exuberance and decadence of the Jazz Age (costumes by Linda Cho, and projection and scenic design by Paul Tate DePoo III). But it has little of  the melancholy and longing for the impossible that Fitzgerald illustrated so well in his 1925 novel.

Noah J. Ricketts, Sara Chase, and John Zdrojeski.

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 28, 2924: It has been said short stories make great theater and film. Novels don’t. If you want proof, buy a ticket for  Broadway’s new musical, The Great Gatsby. With a book by Kait Kerrigan, music composed by Jason Howland and lyrics by Nathan Dylan, the show captures all the exuberance and decadence of the Jazz Age (costumes by Linda Cho, and projection and scenic design by Paul Tate DePoo III). But it has little of  the melancholy and longing for the impossible that Fitzgerald illustrated so well in his 1925 novel.

However, the show, as helmed by Marc Bruni, makes mistakes that have nothing to do with the difficulty of adapting a novel for the stage. The story, narrated by Nick Carraway (Noah J. Ricketts), chronicles Nick’s slow realization of how self-involved, unhappy and immoral the aristocrats of East and West Egg are, despite their wealth. But in the musical adaptation, the character of Nick’s new friends should be obvious to him from the very beginning.

Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada.

Tom Buchanan (John Zdrojeski) is a brute who beats and cheats on his wife, Daisy (Eva Noblezada). Daisy  is a mother who is not terribly interested In her child, and a wife who is willing to put up with abuse as long as it is accompanied by wealth and status. Daisy’s friend, Jordan Baker (Samantha Pauly) is a cynical snob who doesn’t care much about anything.

It should be obvious that anyone who gets involved with these people will be dirtied and demeaned by the experience. Why does Nick want to stay attached to them? What is their attraction? Can it  be that he is so fascinated by Jay Gatsby’s legendary parties?

As for Gatsby, in the hands of Jeremy Jordan, he’s nothing more than a disappointed lover with a good voice. While Fitzgerald makes it clear that Daisy and Gatsby’s love was doomed because they come from two different worlds, in the musical it seems more a matter of bad timing. It’s not until the end that we find out Daisy’s father had disapproved of their liaison. But even then, that does not seem to have been the deciding factor.

Eva Noblezada and John Zdrojeski.

And finally, the two characters who really do deserve our sympathy, the foolish and desperate Myrtle Wilson (Sara Chase), Tom’s latest plaything, and her oafish husband, George (Paul Whitty), are cardboard representations of the ignorant working class, unworthy of our respect or pity, despite their tragic end.

Sometimes a not exactly thrilling musical can be saved by a great score. Howland and Dylan have come up with something that sounds like what happens when hip hop meets 1920s jazz. There’s plenty of noise and beat but not too much swing. Fortunately, Jordan and Noblezada soar in the ballads. But Dominique Kelley’s choreography takes the high-stepping and rhythmic moves  of dances like the Jitterbug, Charleston and Boogie-Woogie, and turns them into jerks and calisthenics. Even the excellent tap is marred by a stage crowded with too many dancers in too many different costumes.

Jeremy Jordan, Eva Noblezada and cast in The Great Gatsby,

In fact, everything about The Great Gatsby is too much. The music is too loud, the ensemble is too big, and Nick and Jordan’s not very intense romance takes up too much time and diverts our attention from the Gatsby, Tom, Daisy triangle, which is the heartbeat of the story.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby as a meditation on the false promise of the American dream. This production turns the novel into a glitzy young adult romance.

The Great Gatsby **1/2
Broadway Theater
1681 Broadway, NYC. 
Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. telecharge.com
Opened April 25, 2024 for an open run
Photography: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman