Directed by Helen Brown
Musical Direction by John Moore
Choreography by Sian Archer
“Amid the whispering and the champagne and the stars.”
No stranger to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Shrewsbury has brought original musicals to the Fringe for over 25 years. Now, they bring their talented young cast back for the Fringe’s 75th anniversary to present an original jazz musical based on F.Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby.
The musical reliably follows the well-known story from Nick’s arrival, the introduction of his wealthier relatives Daisy and Tom Buchanan and knowledge of their marital troubles from Daisy’s friend Jordan. The mysterious Gatsby is encountered at a party, his past with Daisy explored and a romance is rekindled. The conflict builds to a climax and Nick is left to pick up the pieces.
The musical succeeds in presenting a whistle-stop tour through the main plot and thematic points with abridged versions of the book’s dialogue and scenes. The cleverly written songs expand upon poignant moments in the script and serve to emphasise the mood of the characters performing them.
Ed Pickersgill’s Nick Carraway is the narrator of the tale guiding the audience through each scene. Varying from the original, Pickersgill presents less of a wide-eyed eager character and instead portrays him as calm and serious. While Guy Davis portrays a grave and thoughtful Gatsby, Oscar Niblett’s Young Gatsby captures the ambition that is a cornerstone of the character.
While Charlie Holliday’s Daisy Buchanan brings an oft humorous tone with expressive characterisation while succeeding in adding depth to her character rarely shown in adaptations. Georgina Cooper’s Jordan excellently portrays her cool, aloof and composed nature amongst the chaos. Laurie Morgan’s Tom Buchanan is the stereotypical villain, judgemental and unfaithful.
Bringing energy and enthusiasm, Kate Woodman’s Myrtle Wilson’s dance numbers and relatability to the character in her song “Why Shouldn’t I Be Special?” are a highlight. And Thea Haugan’s Klipspringer delivers mesmerising vocal performances of “Jazz History of the World” and “There Isn’t a Cure for Love”.
Ensemble numbers such as “Lucky Night” to maintain the high energy of the performance. The simple staging comprises a raised platform with the iconic green light and the live musicians, under John Moore’s musical direction, capture the essence of the jazz scene.
The script deviates from the source material occasionally, introducing a new facet of Nick’s worldview of his lack of belief in love to serve in conflict with his endorsement of Gatsby and Daisy’s affair. Additionally, it credits Daisy with the realisation that Gatsby’s perception of her is false, and he has put her on a pedestal, captured in “Girl of Your Dreams”.
The musical element and a limited runtime mean that elements of the narrative are occasionally rushed through, but overall the production captures the essence of The Great Gatsby with sterling performances and well-written lyrics.
Gatsby: A New Musical runs at Paradise in Augustine until August 27th.
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
By Mhairi Sime