The age of jazz and flappers has been revived in the world premiere musical adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” at Paper Mill Playhouse. Starring musical theater powerhouses Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan and Jeremy Jordan as Jay Gatsby, “The Great Gatsby” roared on stage for its limited engagement of Oct. 12 through Nov. 12.
For a musical premiere, “The Great Gatsby” did not disappoint and couldn’t if it tried. Complete with stunning sets, dazzling costumes, and a mind-blowing cast, “The Great Gatsby” successfully transported audience members to Fitzgerald’s enticing and similarly devilish world of East and West Egg. The set served as a crucial caveat to this experience, as an immersive backdrop helped establish each scene. It was easy to forget that the actors weren’t actually in a colossal mansion or lounging on the coast of the sound, but rather on a stage in Millburn, New Jersey. Excess is thus emphasized, further amplifying the story’s pervading notion that “more” is not always “better.”
The original score, composed by Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen, consisted of both jazz and pop influences and seamlessly blended the 20s of the past and the 20s of the present. Upbeat head-boppers such as the opening number of “Roaring On’’ and the FOMO-inducing party scene of “New Money” employ jazzy, dissonant chords that crunch together beautifully, while power ballads such as Gatsby’s “For Her” and Daisy’s “Beautiful Little Fool” showcase Jordan’s and Noblezada’s raw talent, respectively.
Jordan’s portrayal of Gatsby proved reminiscent of his Paper Mill debut character of Jack Kelly from the Paper Mill-turned-Broadway hit “Newsies.” Refined, quirky, and with a disregard for the law, Gatsby truly could serve as a semi-matured Jack if one reads between the lines. Nevertheless, this does not take away from the complex and morally ambiguous character of Gatsby, whom Jordan slips into the metaphorical robes of with ease.
Furthermore, Noblezada’s gut-wrenching belts were enough to leave not one dry eye in the audience, and she effortlessly exhibited the nuances of an equally submissive and civilly disobedient Daisy. Her vocally bright timbre pairs perfectly with that of Jordan’s deeper tone, neither overshadowing but instead accentuating the other. Additionally, not many would be able to capture the battle that Daisy is seemingly always internally fighting, yet Noblezada impressed with her acting expertise.
Other honorable mentions include Samantha Pauly, the jaw-dropping talent behind Daisy’s independent and brash best friend Jordan Baker, whose sarcastic remarks and disregard for the patriarchy breathed fresh air into the more subservient-woman 20s era. Understudy Dan Rosales also killed his debut as Nick Carraway, highlighting the character’s conflicting thoughts on the life he’s lived and the life he is now living.
With the success and love that “The Great Gatsby” garnered over its month-long run, fans can only hope that Broadway will be the next step for this one-of-a-kind show.