The Great Gatsby

In the appropriately grand setting at Assembly Roxy, this adaptation of The Great Gatsby fuses modern music, simple but effective set design, exquisite dancing and decadent costume to capture the 1920s mood of Fitzgerald’s classic with heaps of style. With Baz Luhrmann’s recent film decidedly in the minds of both the audience and the performers, this is a clear reference point when it comes to style, theatricality and adding that modern touch to this classic tale.

Much like in Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation, the visuals of this production are paramount, and they are achieved with finesse and flair.

The large cast are in sultry lace costumes with hints of lingerie peeping through tuxedo inspired suits and fringed dresses, pulling the ensemble together visually but marking out the more important characters with subtle twists on the theme. They begin with a musical number that captures the 1920s vibe perfectly, their slick and incredibly well rehearsed swing dancing adding to the hedonic atmosphere. The narration is in the form of Nick Carraway’s internal monologue, keeping true to the book for literary fans. This element also adds to the mystery and anticipation of Gatsby before his identity is finally revealed.

This is a very professional and smooth production; the set changes are achieved with slick precision, transforming the space from car garage to party in seconds. The blocking of the cast is absolute perfection: these actors move together as one to shift our attention around the hectic parties and hustle and bustle of New York. In the background the scene is set with a silent, black and white projection of the cast in the style of the time that adds even further to the dating of the piece. This production has been expertly styled.

One stand-out performer is Cora Joe Anderson, who plays Daisy. Her performance is truly believable; a beautiful sadness is communicated through her expressive eyes and delicate but powerful voice. The whole cast have excellent voices in fact, and when combined with their impressive dance moves and simple acrobatics on a suspended ring at the back of the stage, this makes for some dramatic scenes. Modern songs like Pharrell’s Happy and Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind are integrated into the 20s style, which is a clever and entertaining addition.

Much like in Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation, the visuals of this production are paramount, and they are achieved with finesse and flair. The acting overall is not flawless, and some scenes feel rushed and too harshly edited. This is a brave adaptation because not only is this an incredibly popular and well-known book, but condensing its story into an hour is a stretch. Sometimes the mixture of speech and music becomes a little too overwhelming and the sounds can be quite distracting. However, as the story reaches its bloody and tragic conclusion, the tension and music builds to a climax very effectively. The final moments are suitably understated, well interpreted and sensitive.

This musical adaptation won’t please all fans of the book and is hardly the most original interpretation. If you weren’t happy with Luhrmann’s view of Fitzgerald’s classic, then this show might similarly grind your gears. But as a whole, the themes and style of the book are very well communicated through the cohesive visuals, updated music, energetic dancing and solid acting. 

Reviews by Troy Holmes

Assembly Roxy

The Great Gatsby

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The Blurb

A new theatrical experience, conceived by Broadway's Ryan Domres and based on the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set against the inspired Jazz Age, this avant-garde production examines the life of Jay Gatsby and his pursuit of the American Dream. Infused with explosive choreography and imaginative storytelling, this immersive spectacle will take you on a journey among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars, leaving you breathing dreams like air.