Theatre Review: The Great Gatsby Musical - King's Head Theatre, Islington ✭✭✭✭

The Great Gatsby Musical
Sean Browne (Gatsby) and Matilda Sturridge (Daisy)
Photo by Patrick Dodds
King’s Head Theatre 

Since its publication in 1925 The Great Gatsby has inspired numerous popular adaptations across a range of media, including Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated big-screen version, due to be released next summer and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. However, Ruby in the Dust’s current production at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington is the first to transform F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece into a musical. The result is a brilliantly jazz- and gin-soaked evening’s entertainment set in the glitz and glamour of the so-called ‘roaring twenties’. The play tells the story of the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a wealthy young man who fills his house every night with music and revelry, perpetually hoping to be noticed from across the bay by his former love, the now married Daisy Buchanan.

Sean Browne (Gatsby), Raphael Verrion (Nick),
Peta Cornish (Jordan) Anna Maguire (Catherine), Alyssa Noble (Lucille)
Photo by Patrick Dodds
As a fan of the original book, I was initially a little sceptical as to whether it would suit being turned into a musical. Whilst Gatsby’s legendary parties seemed an ideal setting for jazz and razzle-dazzle, the complex, heart-breaking love story at the centre of the novel seemed unsuited to vocal accompaniment. As it is, I was completely wrong. The up-tempo jazz numbers effectively establish the buzzing energy of this period, but the slower, more dramatic songs also powerfully uncover the heartache and emptiness lying beneath the glossy veneer, with some of their lyrics lifted directly from Fitzgerald’s perfectly-constructed prose. Joe Evans’s excellent compositions flow seamlessly with the action and are beautifully performed by the soloists, particularly Matilda Sturridge as a fragile, conflicted Daisy and Naomi Bullock as the fiery Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan’s lover.

The cast are all excellent and multi-talented, with several performers playing instruments as well as acting and singing. Steven Clarke’s aggressive, pig-headed Tom is a brilliant and often humorous foil to Sean Browne’s muted, idealistic Gatsby, although special mention must go to Raphael Verrion as the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, who perfectly captures the outsider’s fascination and growing disgust with the hollowness of the people and society he observes.

All in all this is a great production and really enjoyable to watch. Even the heat of the King’s Head Theatre’s tiny auditorium seemed thoroughly suited to the heady haze of a New York summer. If you’re looking for a distraction from the inevitable post-Olympics comedown, this powerful and poetic production is the one to watch.

Four stars ✭✭✭✭

Review by Emma Curry

The Great Gatsby Musical

King’s Head Theatre
115 Upper Street 
N1 1QN

Tuesday 7 August to 
Saturday 1 September

Press Night: 
Friday 10 August at 7.15pm

Tuesday - Saturday at 7.15pm Sunday at 3.00pm

£17.50, £!5.00 concessions
£22.50 allocated

All tickets to preview performances 
(7 - 10 August) £10.00

Box office: 020 7478 0160