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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby in the Dust presents

 

 

The Great Gatsby Musical

Great Gatsby Musical - Sean Browne (Gatsby) and Matilda Sturridge (Daisy)
PhotoPatrick Dodds

 

Adapted from the novel by F Scott Fitzgerald

Composer and Lyricist – Joe Evans

Writer and Director – Linnie Reedman

Designer – Chris Hone

Lighting – Seth Rook-Williams

Costumes – Belle Mundi

Choreography – Alyssa Noble

 

King’s Head Theatre

 

7 August – 1 September 2012

 

The jazzy tones of opening number “Louisville Blues” and the sultry atmosphere at The King’s Head combine with Tom Buchannan’s (Steven Clarke) cigar smoke, and gleaming, sumptuous costumes to draw an expectant audience deep into the Roaring Twenties. True in essence to Fitzgerald’s story, and drawing on a sense of perpetual seeking, which lies at the heart of the book, this musical adaptation is a revelation. Running at just under two hours it skilfully condenses the action without forsaking poignancy.

The band consists of Composer Joe Evans as staple, at a beautiful grand piano, joined by an assortment of cast members on varying combinations of instruments including violin, clarinet and cello, keeping the sound and feel of the music diverse and exiting.

Daisy Buchannan is achingly beautiful and her follies and cares are carried by Matilda Sturridge with deep tenderness in what is, remarkably, her professional stage debut. Her reluctant marriage to Tom (Steven Clarke), coaxed into compliance by her well-meaning friend Jordan Baker (Peta Cornish) introduces her unhappy circumstances. Raphael Verrion is a sympathetic Nick Carraway, cousin of Daisy and neighbour of the enigmatic, mesmeric Jay Gatsby (Sean Browne) and is central to the plot, as he arranges a fateful meeting between the two. Their past is revealed and their future, enveloped in each other, irrespective of consequence, seems mapped out. Embodying the spirit of the age, Nick is all seeing and all knowing, but discreet in his knowledge of both Tom and Daisy’s love affairs. 

Tom Buchanan (Steven Clarke) is all bluster and brawn, suitably abrasive and as repellent as Fitzgerald’s creation. His exchanges with Gatsby form some of the finest dramatic moments in the production. The relationship between garage-owner George Wilson and his volatile wife Myrtle, who is also Tom’s mistress, is explored with balance and depth.

The busy cast fill up the frequent party scenes with ease on the King’s Head stage and the action often spills out into the aisle with immersive effects. The set is arranged in a classy, understated way that still manages to convey the style and exuberance of the era. Basically arranged props are shifted about as the action flits between Gatsby’s parties, hotels and Wilson’s garage.

Wolfsheim (Patrick Lannigan), a shady associate of Gatsby does not feature often, but is excellent when present. Barnaby Brookman capably adopts several personas, including confused party goer Owl Eyes, and a prudent but engaged waiter. The only inconsistency in the entire production seems to be slipping accents in some of the characters, but the atmosphere is so enrapturing that one hardly notices and the quality of acting in general so fine that it seems petty to mention it.

The Great Gatsby is a sacrosanct novel for many, and I was as conspicuously apprehensive about attending this production as I am about Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming film adaptation. To take such a profound story and set it to music for stage is a brave undertaking by all accounts, and runs the risk of trivialising an ultimately tragic story for entertainment ends. Composer and lyricist Joe Evans has created a sympathetic score, which is delivered by a vocally strong, musically inexhaustible cast, adding a new dimension while letting nothing precious escape.

 
 
 
Kings Head Theatre
115 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1QN
www.kingsheadtheatre.com
Tickets: £10 - £22.50
Box Office: 0207 478 0160
 
 

 

 

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