Wednesday, 10 March 2021

REVIEW: Gatsby: A Musical at Cadogan Hall

As a huge fan of ‘The Great Gatsby’ I was excited to see how ‘Gatsby: The Musical’ would adapt the book in this musical revival concert, back by popular demand from the 11th-14th March. 

The grandeur of the venue and incredible live band quickly had me feeling almost like I was in the theatre itself, excitedly waiting for the show to begin. With Gatsby (Ross William Wild) lurking on the balcony above the grand empty hall, his voice booming when he begins to speak, you can easily believe the characters are speaking from Gatsby’s long-abandoned mansion.

This adaption of the story places Daisy (Jodie Steele) at the centre, as she returns to Gatsby’s mansion 7 years later, in 1929, looking for him. In this version, Daisy is a far more sympathetic character than the one in the books, and Jodie Steele’s vulnerable performance places you firmly in her shoes as she relives the disastrous events of 1922.

Myrtle Wilson (Emma Williams), too, is given considerably more of a voice in this adaption. Firstly, George Wilson (Joe Frost) is a more intimidating husband in this portrayal, and we see how he begins to restrict Myrtle’s freedom and understand her motives on a deeper level than the novel presents. The sheer strength of Emma Williams’ performance ensures we feel the full emotional weight of her story in a way I have never seen before. 

The concert is at its very best when Steele and Williams are performing together, who both give an incredible vocal performance which brings a great deal of power to the show. Of course, there are no weak vocal performances among this cast, even where some of the narrative feels disjointed due to the switching between 1929 and 1922, the songs quickly root you back in the characters’ mindset.

Something does get lost in the inability to perform the show as more than a concert. With a story that relies so heavily on the idea of heaving parties at Gatsby’s and the intimacy between Daisy and Gatsby, not every moment hits as effectively as it should. The actors do an admirable job compensating, and the inability to share props is comfortably woven into the narrative with details such as Myrtle refusing to take a champagne glass from Tom (Liam Doyle) because he accidentally orders Daisy’s favourite instead of hers.

The central themes do feel very applicable to the times we live in, and the production is able to highlight this. At the very start there is an offhand reference to the fact that in 1922 they were still recovering from their own pandemic. Furthermore, there is a sense throughout the story of the characters being stuck in time; whether it is in the past or in a repetitive present, they feel unable to move on. It is an aspect of the show which is particularly effective when being performed in our third lockdown in a year. 

It is ultimately an interesting approach to adapting a classic in a new way, and whilst not every aspect works, it is an admirable feat to have pulled off in our current situation. If you enjoy 1920s tunes and some fabulous vocal performances, this production is a lovely way to experience the excitement of live musicals from your very own living room. 

Review by Jasmine Silk

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £20 (+£2 processing fee)
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