Union Theatre 6 – 30 April. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Not so great Gatsby.
On paper, I’m sure this musical based on the iconic novel seemed like a good idea. In reality, however, it is an unmitigated disaster. The production almost gets away with it in the sections at parties and bar scenes, but most of the show plays as if songs had to be shoehorned into the plot to fulfil a quota. Joe Evans’ music is lively but forgettable, and every song was performed at a pitch that was either too high or too low to evoke any appropriate feelings in the audience. The most badly judged is All Seeing Eyes, where the poor actors playing Myrtle and George have to act out a huge fight whilst singing/shouting trite lyrics at each other. Truth be told, I was relieved when she got run over, at least the song had ended. Evans’ habit of ending “emotional” songs with a lingering high note is increasingly irritating and caused problems amongst the male performers. Having the actors playing instruments around the room just doesn’t work in this space, whenever the trumpeter comes near, everything else is drowned out. The staging and design is messy, with over complicated lighting (the mechanisms are extremely loud – at one point I was convinced the whirring noise was F Scott Fitzgerald spinning in his grave) and needless choreographed faffing about between scenes; the climatic murder suicide almost goes unnoticed because of another badly placed song, turning what could have been a huge moment into a damp squib.
The cast do their best, and over the run I am sure their accents and singing voices will improve. But the casting is questionable, with Wolfshiem about as criminal as the Pope, Daisy blinking and gurning like an American version of Peggy from Hi-de-Hi, and Gatsby – enigmatic, charismatic Jay Gatsby – as dull as ditch water. The “romantic” duet when Gatsby and Daisy are reunited involved a lot more yawning than yearning. The actors are not helped by the tedious and uninspiring book. The scene where Tom confronts Gatsby, revealing his true past, should be seething with tension, but instead it was stilted and one dimensional, which really sums up the whole show.