In the week that a new date for the film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel was announced, London saw the world premiere of the musical theatre incarnation.

The recent popularity of The Great Gatsby - there was also Gatz, a 6 hour reading of the book - seems apt for the times. After all, the story is set in the roaring twenties just after the Great War and before the Great Depression. It’s a world obsessed with new technology, new money and celebrity not too far removed from our own.

However, the simplified narrative of this musical lost the air of mystery and suspense that was so integral to the original story. This narrative trick is missed as the musical opens by effectively giving the game away. The suave and cool veneer on Jay Gatsby, played by a convincing Sean Browne, has no time to dry before revealing him as a man possessed with all his vulnerabilities on display.

His love interest Daisy is the stage debut of Matilda Sturridge and she seems nervous, insecure perhaps, missing that callous edge. Fortunately that’s something that her husband Tom has; Steven Clarke perfectly paints the man who gets confidence from money and power. Daisy’s choosing wealth over love presents Fitzgerald’s criticism of the times and Sturridge showed no conviction in her choice.

The supposed outsider Nick Carroway, Raphael Verrion, is too quickly absorbed in this world of money and too quickly done with it. There is never any temptation for him in this wealth, except perhaps Jordan Baker who Patra Cornish portrays with clear skill.

The Fitzgerald poetic prose that is mentioned in the program did not come across much in the lyrics, which were too literal for my taste. Though there were one or two gems in there, the songs felt too short. The wistful look into the distance with which most solo-songs seemed to be sung also puzzled me: are all characters just sad or confused? Are there no layers to these emotions?However, the live band added a dynamic touch to the stage and some of the actors prove their skills by alternating roles and playing an instrument. In fact the supporting cast is brilliant, Naomi Bullock and Anna Maguire in particular dazzling on the stage.

The simple yet impressive set fits the musical and the stage but scratch the surface of sparkly costumes and flapper dance and this musical shows all that glitters is not gold.

Reviews by Clarissa Widya

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The Blurb

Set in the sizzling heat of a 1920s New York summer, The Great Gatsby Musical, conceived and developed in 2011, is a guest production in the King’s Head Theatre’s summer season 2012 – the year of the ‘flapper’ and what promises to see a major 1920s revival.

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