It seems to be the year of The Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about the American dream: The New York Public Theatre is bringing its enactment, Gatz, to London in June and later in the summer The Kings Head premieres a new musical version by Joe Evans. First up is Peter Joucla’s adaptation at Wilton’s Music Hall. The show has already been on tour and runs like one of the well-oiled, expensive cars its protagonists drive – it’s a fun affair full of atmosphere.
Joucla’s version is admirably precise and concise, snappy even. He adds an a capella choir, bespectacled as a nifty acknowledgement of Fitzgerald’s theme of vision, which performs jazz numbers. The cast gets to show off its musical skills and the delivery is superb – it adds a great deal of humour, possibly too much, as the songs dilute the tragedy of Gatsby’s doomed love affair.
In the title role Michael Malarkey is so appealing it seems a shame not to see more of him and Nick Chambers, who plays the central character of Nick, doesn’t seem to have been given enough time to establish himself as our narrator. Joucla’s adaptation benefits smaller roles: Christopher Brandon is superb as the “hulking” Tom and Vicki Campbell electric as glamorous hanger-on Jordan.
The Great Gatsby benefits immeasurably from its setting in Wilton’s Music Hall, as do all the shows it hosts. The venue exudes a decayed glamour and is one of the few theatres worth arriving early and staying late for to enjoy the bar. Capitalising on the play’s speakeasy era, cocktails are served and the party carries on after the show. Wilton’s closes soon for an essential refurbishment, but please note that it’s still open for donations, so make sure you don’t miss the party.
Until 19 May 2012
Photo by Michelle Robek
Written 26 April 2012 for The London Magazine