Gatsby @ Southwark Playhouse*

Rating: 3/5
Booking until: 8th January 2021
Running time: 140 minutes
Photography credit: Lidia Crisafulli
Tickets link: https://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show-whats-on/gatsby/

F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel once again comes to life, but in this new musical adaptation by Linnie Reedman and Joe Evans. Having had previous success in concert/workshop iterations, the musical finally gets a full run. The musical is centres around Daisy Buchanan as she comes back to New York to find Jay Gatsby and remember what happened in order to confront her past. While the musical hits some high notes with a stellar cast and costumes, the small space didn’t allow the piece to fully flourish for me.

I really appreciated the score by Joe Evans along with Henry Brennan’s arrangements and orchestrations, as they really brought the 20s era to life in how timely they were. It allowed the musical to really create a 1920s atmosphere at the Southwark Playhouse. I also appreciated the use of an overture and entr’acte which isn’t something you often see in the newer musicals and I thought that was a nice touch. The score is sung beautifully by a very talented cast, particularly Ross William Wild with his 11 o’clock number in act 2. There is also a fantastic duet in act 2 between Jodie Steele as Daisy and Julie Yammanee as Myrtle which allowed them both to shine their brilliant voices. Although given the piece centres around her, Daisy isn’t given a solo number which felt a bit out of place for me. She is the one driving the story and yet it felt like her voice was getting slightly trampled on since she only has duets/group numbers in the show. Which is a shame because Jodie Steele is truly fantastic in this and I think a solo would have only elevated her performance even further. I did also really love the costumes by Belle Mundi as well, there were some really wonderful pieces that felt of the 20s era as well and, like the music, helped create the 1920s atmosphere.

My main issue with the show is that the space is just too small for this show. The band take up almost half of the stage and it’s quite a big ensemble so this means at times the performers are practically sitting on the people in the front rows. This also means the band often overpowered the performers at time, because the sound isn’t completely protected. I also think the show could’ve benefitted from a bigger set to enhance the atmosphere even further. The choreography by Chris Whittaker is good but quite often looks really cramped and a bit messy in the transitions as the performers try not to bump into each other. I also think the show is just a bit too long in length and could do with some trimming down, especially in act 1 as the stronger bits of the story happen in act 2. Some of the set up in act 1 made it a bit hard to differentiate the time shifts between 1922 and 1929.

That being said, I think this is quite a lovely new show that has really strong potential. I’m glad that the run gets to continue at the Southwark Playhouse despite Covid trying to worm it’s way in. I think this is definitely one to run to if you’re super into the 20s era. I also appreciate just how nice it is to have a new British musical hitting the ground running. But I do think a few trimmings could really make this production soar further.

Until next time,

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