The Great Gatsby Musical
The Great Gatsby Musical from Ruby in the Dust is a take on F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel and the plot remains close to this. The only real deviation from the source material is the inclusion of songs written by Joe Evans. The cast of eleven sings, acts and some even play instruments throughout the play.
The relatively large cast made the small King’s Head Theatre feel packed, which worked excellently in the party scenes. The actors made full use of the whole room, weaving in and out of the audience giving the whole affair a very immersive feel. The songs helped create a “big” feel, at points songs continued quietly under the dialogue, giving the piece a multi-layered aural richness.
The songs worked very well. There is always a danger of descending into the realms of fromage when adapting a novel into a musical, especially with a modern American classic. However, Joe Evans managed to weave some very touching songs from the strands of Fitzgerald’s prose and his own original lyrics. The singing was all first class with Matilda Sturridge as Daisy in particular, having a beautiful voice. Large parts of the play were underpinned with excellent music provided by the cast. While the music was very good and complimented the dialogue, it did not really match with the tagline of “Love in The Jazz Age”. This in no way diminished the score but those expecting a bombastic jazz sound track will be left wanting. The music really filled the small venue and served to give the play a real sense of involvement.
The relatively Spartan set worked very well, with minor changes made to indicate scene changes. For a story that spans a number of locations, the minor shifts in set dressing, expertly informed the viewer where our characters were and helped drive the narrative.
The whole cast played their parts with aplomb making hard to pick a standout performance. Jay Gatsby was played with the right mix of tragedy and charm by Sean Browne; Jon Gabriel Robbins brought a weary naivety to Nick that played well along side Sturridge’s fragile but defiant daisy; the shady Wolfsheim was played absolutely perfectly by Patrick Lannigan, whose brief appearance was an absolute treat and left one wishing that Director Linnie Reedman had made more use of him. One issue with the performance was the success of the accents: while some of the cast members seemed to be in command of their accent others, either lent into the accent too much or bordered on character-ture. At times, some actors struggled, dropping out the accent altogether at moments of high drama. While the lines were well delivered and well acted, it did somewhat lessen the sense of immersion. The cast will most likely settle in with the dialect as the run progresses and perhaps work with a coach a bit more.
Linnie Reedman has done well here; taking on such a classic tale – especially at a time when a number of other high profile adaptations are on the horizon – is a brave move and it has certainly paid off. The show has the right mixture of high drama, humour and captivating songs. There were a few niggling problems with the production, the accents being one and the pacing being another. Perhaps making the production slightly longer would have made the play feel slightly less condensed. These are relatively small problems, however, and The Great Gatsby Musical will please those familiar with Fitzgerald’s book and more than likely inspire others to read the book.
Photos: Patrick Dodds
Ruby in the Dust’s production of The Great Gatsby Musical runs from 7th August until 1st September 2012 at The King’s Head Theatre, Islington. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.