One of my favorite novels is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” One of my favorite stage actors is Jeremy Jordan, and my favorite regional theater is Paper Mill Playhouse. So, when a world-premiere musical adaptation of Gatsby starring Jordan opened at Paper Mill this month, I could not have been more excited.
The month-long run is almost entirely sold out through its final performance on Nov. 12, but I am hoping to see this production transfer to Broadway sometime next year.
Jordan, arguably most famous for his Tony-nominated performance as Jack Kelly in “Newsies,” which also premiered at Paper Mill, knows how to give his fans exactly what they want. He is one of the most underappreciated performers of our era, and his rendition of “For Her” was stunning. Jordan opens his mouth and angelic lyrics pour out.
Jordan is perfectly paired with Eva Noblezada, best known for her years spent as Eurydice in “Hadestown” on Broadway, who delights as a seemingly innocent but not-so naive Daisy Buchanan. I was charmed by her performance from the second she began “Sophisticated,” Daisy’s first solo of the show.
“Sophisticated” and many of the other songs throughout the show were some of the better earworms I have heard in quite a while. I need this to transfer to Broadway simply so I can get a cast album to listen to on repeat.
Noah Ricketts and Sam Pauly, who instigate Gatsby and Daisy’s reunion as Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker, are just delightful. Ricketts’ performance felt so genuine, and Pauly was bold and sassy in a down-with-the-patriarchy type of way.
Now, I have to note that I was at the second preview, which means the show had only been performed in its entirety once before. Unsurprisingly, there were a few hiccups. I was seated about 20 feet from the stage, and I could not hear some of the lyrics, so the sound mixing needs some adjustments.
In Myrtle Wilson’s (played by Sara Chase) first song, an incomplete costume change saw Wilson dancing with the top half of one dress and the bottom half of another. And about a half hour into the second act, the show had to pause for about 10 minutes to fix technical issues with one of the cars. If you know Gatsby, the cars play an important role in the plot.
The biggest criticism of this production is likely to be that it is very surface level. There are hints to much of the symbolism you may have analyzed in English class, but it remains relatively shallow. I did not personally struggle with understanding the show because I am familiar with the intricacies of Gatsby’s plot, but I would recommend that you read a brief synopsis or watch the 2013 film adaptation to refamiliarize yourself with the subject matter.
I am crossing my fingers that this production makes its way to Broadway, because I would love to see any tweaks they make in the remainder of the run at Paper Mill. It’s bound to be a hit, old sport.