'The Great Gatsby' review — the Roaring Twenties dance to life on Broadway

Read our review of The Great Gatsby on Broadway, a new musical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel starring Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada.

Caroline Cao
Caroline Cao

The Great Gatsby on Broadway flows with voices and set pieces “full of money,” as the quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel goes. I could taste morsels of bliss in the Marc Bruni-directed musical adaptation: Jason Howland’s decorous pop-jazz score blasts out earworms, bookwriter Kait Kerrigan produces clever lines, and Nathan Tysen’s lyrics translate the novel’s words for a contemporary audience. Yet, its merits rarely rise to the eruptive 1920s Jazz Age environment.

Broadway veteran Jeremy Jordan coasts on his swoony goodwill to bring vitality to his Jay Gatsby, his coolness puncturing the air, his voice frothing with romanticism. As Gatsby’s lost love, Eva Noblezada nails the disillusioned heiress Daisy Buchanan. However, boilerplate ballads lose, rather than enhance, the characters' dimension. Beautiful belting overpowers all the psychology.

This take on the Gatsby and Daisy romance smooths over the materialism inherent in their attraction. Likewise, Nick Carraway’s (an amiable Noah J. Ricketts) dynamic with Gatsby becomes a superficial friendship, and the musical shows minimal interest in Nick’s fascination with Gatsby’s mystique.

Although the musical compellingly expands the novel in some ways (such as Gatsby playing up his World War I veteran background to showboat his worth), it hits road bumps in others — in particular, the secondary romance of Nick and Jordan Baker (a stellar Samantha Pauly). Their doomed affair-to-betrothal may register as cute, but their conversations about marriage, added for the show, awkwardly water down the class-gender exploration to “boo-hoo, miserable marriages stifle women’s independence.”

All in all, this Great Gatsby shies away from making us think hard of the blood spilled due to Gatsby’s dealings, which are relegated to lines of dialogue and the campy song “Shady.” Something about the production feels too spic and span by the time it ends: Missing is a mess left behind by the Roaring Twenties excess. I felt the warmth in The Great Gatsby, but it was begging to bring on the heat.

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The Great Gatsby summary

Bondsman Nick Carraway is intrigued by his mysterious, uber-rich neighbor Jay Gatsby of the nouveau riche (new money). Gatsby recruits Nick to reunite him with the latter’s cousin, the unhappily married, old-money Daisy. In the meantime, Nick courts the vivacious golfer Jordan Baker. But just as Gatsby and Daisy rekindle their bygone love, tragedy looms on the horizon.

The musical largely follows Fitzgerald's original novel set in the Roaring Twenties while also taking liberties to expand the characters for the stage. But if anyone else was hunting for an adaptation that leans into any queerness between Gatsby and Nick, this isn’t the version.

What to expect at The Great Gatsby

Gatsby’s slick yellow Rolls Royce is the moving eye candy of this production. The Great Gatsby also boasts pleasing projections, sets, and props by Paul Tate dePoo III. One of the outstanding visual effects is Tom Buchanan’s car vrooming away from the Valley of Ashes and entering the opulence of the high life. Likewise, eyes on the billboard of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg (an infamous symbol for the eyes of God in the novel) looms as a memorable set piece, tilting into the Valley of Ashes. I believed it could drive a garage mechanic mad.

Gatsby's Art Deco manor looms large but struggles to dazzle. In hindsight, perhaps it’s not meant to glow like Nick’s pastoral cottage. Upon the party hunters dancing in Gatsby’s manor, Linda Cho’s costume work showcases diverse Art Deco patterns in the fabrics.

Sara Chase plays Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress, as a woman who finds herself bamboozled out of the good life. As Myrtle's downtrodden mechanic husband, Paul Whitty makes a robust George Wilson. Eric Anderson deserves his roses for playing a rascally Meyer Wolfsheim.

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What audiences are saying about The Great Gatsby

As of publication, The Great Gatsby has a 90% audience rating on Show-Score. Members generally described it as “Great singing, Entertaining, Great staging, Ambitious, Absorbing.”

  • “See it if you like glitz, glamour, spectacular staging & costumes and a cast where everyone has a terrific voice. Gatsby has never looked this good.” - Show-Score user Stephen 18
  • “See it if you want to see a stylish show with great sets, fantastic costumes, some good performances, and some decent songs. Don't see it if you want characterization. Some characters are one-note; others have behaviors in Act 2 that don't make sense. The story doesn't quite work.” - Show-Score user MaxD
  • “The writers of the Great Gatsby musical fundamentally misunderstood the source material and I’ll leave it at that.” - X user @AlisonAlampi
  • “Was fortunate to see The Great Gatsby musical this weekend with friends and had an amazing time. Being able to hear and see Jeremy Jordan perform was such an experience and I always love seeing Eva perform.” - X user @Lady_Boleyn
  • “It was fun. It just lacks the nuance [as an adaptation]… There’s a melancholy to Gatsby I didn’t feel here.” - My seatmate at the show

Read more audience reviews of The Great Gatsby on Show-Score.

Who should see The Great Gatsby

  • An immersive Off-Broadway Great Gatsby seduced me last summer. If you’re swept into Gatsby flapper fever, you can experience this musical interpretation of the novel and compare stage adaptations, including an upcoming Florence Welch-penned version directed by Rachel Chavkin.
  • Those interested in other page-to-stage adaptations like The Outsiders may like to see how different shows approach the task.
  • Fans of Broadway A-listers Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) and Eva Noblezada (Hadestown) won’t be disappointed with their voices.

Learn more about The Great Gatsby on Broadway

Though it's too glossy an adaptation of the classic novel, The Great Gatsby presents rich performances and design. Pop open the bottle of the bygone Roaring Twenties!

Learn more and get The Great Gatsby tickets on New York Theatre Guide. The Great Gatsby is at the Broadway Theatre.

Additional The Great Gatsby content

Photo credit: The Great Gatsby on Broadway. (Photos by Matthew Murphy)

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