Sweeping audiences back to the 1920s, this concert revival of the musical has a classy cast to bring the characters to life.
The Great Gatsby is not necessarily a story that you wouldn’t think that would work well in a musical format – but as this concert revival shows it does because of the sense of drama and emotion that shines through the characters and story.
Starting in 1929, after the events of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel ended, we are introduced to Daisy Buchanan who is searching for Jay Gatsby – seemingly not knowing what happened to him. It then switches back and forth effectively between the past and present to uncover the history of this tragic romance.
Adapted by director Linnie Reedman it is not easy to highlight the changing times and locations except through caption screens and fade outs which are smoothly included to ensure that the flow of the story is not disrupted too much. Every scene has been nicely created to ensure that there is still a sense of theatricality – even if it is not in a conventional way but still gives the characters and story room to breathe.
The production also still manages to capture the spirit of the 1920s well despite the lack of sets – thanks to the glorious costumes and the way in which the music by Joe Evans is performed with great elegance and class by the onstage musicians and vivid descriptions in the script. While the joy and extravagance that the characters indulge in shines through, Reedman also manages to ensure that the underlying tension in relationships is wonderfully built up – particularly when Gatsby and Tom Buchanan argue over Daisy.
Musically, there is a great variety and charm to be found in the score by Evans, arranged and orchestrated by Henry Brennan performed with great liveliness by the onstage musicians. In particular, ‘Starlight and Wine’ really captures the era, while ‘For Me’ adds a strong emotional core – there is great variety in tone that is very stylish. It gets the balance of playfulness and adding emotional connection to the story and characters just right.
While some of the filming is little shaky in places and the sound can be a little off, the cast are all on top form. In particular, Jodie Steele as Daisy highlights her vulnerability beautifully as well as the inner turmoil she feels, captured in the heartfelt and heartbreaking duet with Myrtle ‘Broken Wings, Broken Dreams’. Meanwhile, Emma Williams as Myrtle makes for a nice contrast – using giddiness and humour to hide own pain at being in a relationship with someone she is deeply unhappy with. Both performances show just how just how both women want to be free to love and live – but constrained by the times and the controlling men in their lives.
Elsewhere, Joe Frost as the brutish George and Liam Doyle as the debonair but neglectful Tom Buchanan both deliver dynamic performances that are compelling to watch.
While it takes a little time to settle into, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the story, it is still a glamorous and engaging way to experience the story unfolding. Filled with great characterisations and spirited music, I would love to see this in a fully staged production one day.
By Emma Clarendon
Gatsby A Musical will be streamed until the 28th February. Tickets are available to buy by visiting: https://www.webgig.tv/