The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Student News Site of Westfield High School

Hi's Eye

The Great Gatsby Musical: Is the green light good enough to reach the Great White Way?

Photo courtesy of @bwaygatsby on Instagram
Jeremy Jordan starring as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby Musical at Papermill Playhouse

As the curtain rose on The Great Gatsby musical, the audience was greeted by the image of Jay Gatsby reaching out towards the green light across the dock. The image is iconic o generations of high school students who read the novel of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but this time  it was followed by an ensemble singing about the partying attitudes of the Roaring ‘20s as the classic American novel underwent a new adaptation on the stage at Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ. The production recently concluded its strictly limited run, but fans and critics alike are speculating that the production could be heading towards Broadway.

The story remains largely the same: a self-made man attempts to rise to high society in the 1920s to win back his long lost love. While this may seem like it can be easily transitioned for Broadway, a defining feature of the novel is the story’s narration by Nick Carraway, a pivotal character. His narration allowed for Fitzgerald to critique the American Dream, materialism, and the classism rampant throughout the era. This presented an issue for the creative team, since in-depth narration does not flow the same way on stage as it does on paper.

The musical decided to get rid of the narration altogether which had a positive impact on the story by allowing for a less biased view of its events. The result of this change added depth to side characters like Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the Valley of Ashes, and made Nick more likable because the audience was not bombarded by his personal complaints as consistently.

However, the removal of narration reduced the nuance of the story. Allowing Nick to explain the difference in the atmosphere between an old money and new money party drives home the idea of classism and the way the aristocracy is hesitant to allow self-made individuals to rise to their level. Those who are familiar with the story would be able to pick up on these concepts, but they were not as apparent or fleshed out, reducing the overall depth of the story.

That is not to say that the show did not have depth though. The show actually expanded on the theme of classism by turning one of Gatsby’s parties into a soldier-themed event in which everyone wore their World War I uniform. The visual of all the new money partygoers dancing while Tom Buchanan, an old money individual, stood isolated in the corners, left plenty for audiences to analyze about the classism in the United States and the role of merit within the American Dream.

In terms of casting, The Great Gatsby was a musical theater fan’s dream. Jeremy Jordan, a star known for his role in the musical Newsies, perfectly captured Jay Gatsby’s unquenchable love and naivety in his belief that he can achieve his dreams. Former Miss Saigon and Hadestown star Eva Noblezada beautifully sang the musical’s score and provided top notch acting in the role of Daisy Buchanan, the love of Gatsby’s life. Noah J. Ricketts’s portrayal of Nick was more likable than the character comes across in the novel, and he had great chemistry with Samantha Pauly, who portrayed his girlfriend Jordan Baker wonderfully. Also shining was John Zdrojeski who made Tom Buchanan just as unlikeable as you would hope if you read the book.

The musical’s score was effective in matching the mood of the story. The party songs were catchy like the opener “Roaring On,” and the love songs were beautiful like Gatsby’s song “For Her.” The musical also used their songs to highlight comedic moments while advancing the plot like when Gatsby is anxious before reuniting with Daisy in the song “Only Tea.”

For a novel filled with vivid and colorful descriptions of over-the-top parties, one would expect the same spectacle before them in a theatrical version. In this endeavor, this musical did not disappoint. Heavily relying on visual projections, the stage design displayed the extravagance of Gatsby’s parties, the poverty of the Valley of Ashes and the elegant, yet exclusive old money society.

While some of the insight of the story was missing, The Great Gatsby musical was still nuanced, spectacular, and Broadway caliber. While doing the source material justice, the musical provided an experience to satisfy die-hard Gatsby fans and new audiences alike.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All Hi's Eye Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *