The Great Gatsby: The Great American Novel Becomes The Great American Musical

Review of The Great Gatsby on Broadway 

Since its publication in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has earned insurmountable accolades, cementing itself as a classic that many usually come across in their high school English classes. 

But Gatsby is more than a frivolous novel worshipped by academics. The story at its core features some of the most compelling characters and an underlying message about the deception of dreams. Its raw outlook on life disguised as a glamorous romance is one of the many reasons its relevance hasn’t declined. 

The iconic story was developed into a film directed by Baz Luhrman known for his flashy style and weaponizing of accelerated pace. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as the dazzling duo of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. The film received mixed reviews despite a seemingly perfect cast and a director known for adapting classics into electric visions. 

In October of 2023, New Jersey’s Tony-Award-winning theater Papermill Playhouse known for serving as the foundational stage for numerous celebrated shows including Newsies and A Bronx Tale, staged a production of The Great Gatsby. The show is currently the theater’s highest-grossing show and sold out all performances before the show even opened. 

This might be owed to crowds not only wanting to see the musical version of the timeless tale but also to welcome back Jeremy Jordan who starred as Jack Kelly in the critically-acclaimed Newsies. Fans were thrilled to hear that not only was Jeremy returning to the renowned stage, but playing Jay Gatsby himself. 

Jordan was joined by contemporary Broadway darling Eva Noblezada known for starring in Miss Saigon and Hadestown. The rest of the cast was plenty star-studded with Noah J. Ricketts who appeared in the Broadway adaptation of Disney’s Frozen and Samantha Pauly who played Katherine Howard in the concert-esc showstopper Six

In early 2024, it was announced that The Great Gatsby was headed to Broadway with previews beginning March 29, 2024. Since its opening night at the Broadway Theatre on April 25, The Great Gatsby has already mesmerized audiences and critics, catalyzing the return of big Broadway. 

The show, like the book and film, centers Nick Carraway as the narrator, incorporating quotes from the book into his opening monologue. As we follow the starry-eyed protagonist into New York, an array of dancers adorned in glittering 1920s-inspired attire surround him and immediately entrance audiences with just the opening number. 

Set pieces move seamlessly on and off the stage to create individual atmospheres for each character’s habitat. The interior of the Buchanan residence is simple and elegant while Nick’s cottage is lush and draped in greenery. Of course, Gatsby’s mansion is the most extraordinary, with multiple stage setups detailing the different corridors of his massive castle-like abode.  

The show’s spectacle is achieved through a variety of production elements but is wondrously assisted by a digital projection that allows the physical furnishings to mimic a 3D effect. Sparklers, lights, and other pyrotechnics also enhance the experience, materializing the lavish world of Gatsby right before your eyes on stage. 

credit: @bwaygatsby on Instagram

Each musical number is imbued with dizzying jazz influences and quintessential musical theater flare. Even the more comedic and serious numbers don’t lose rhythm and feel aligned with the other songs while still standing out. 

Each performer understands the depth of their character effortlessly. Sara Chase presents Myrtle as ditzy and impulsive but sustains a deep hopeless desolation underneath. Paul Whitty gives a rugged tenderness to George that morphs into a desperate anger. 

Ricketts and Pauly play Nick and Jordan as two careful, cerebral lovers who find both solace and discomfort in what they see in the world around them. Jordan and Noblezada embody the star-crossed couple longing for the past, suppressing for as long as they can the internal knowledge that their desires have already departed them. 

The ensemble cast is an inseparable element of the show, providing unrelenting vigor in their vocals and dance numbers. Between their glitzy costumes and impeccable choreography, audiences’s attention will be darting all around the stage to take in every vivid detail. 

The show’s big Broadway energy though elaborate, isn’t reckless in its presentation. The grandiose displays exist, replicating the novel’s thematics, to entice the audience and pull back when the darker and more emotional moments arise. 

The heart of the story isn’t lost in the ecstasy of stunning performances and intricate arrangements. The Great Gatsby’s story is only elevated and expanded upon in musical form, providing insight into characters, relationships, and the consistent allure of our desires however out of reach they may seem.