Music plays a key part in this sparkling adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.

Max Ross as Jay Gatsby and Celia Cruwys-Finnigan as Daisy Buchanan.

Max Ross as Jay Gatsby and Celia Cruwys-Finnigan as Daisy Buchanan. Pic: Alex Harvey Brown

With gin as the national drink, and sex as the national obsession (according to the New York Times, at least), America in the summer of 1923 must have been quite a place to be.

F. Scott Fitzgerald named it the Jazz Age, and the heady mix of music, illicit drinking and shedding the constraints of pre-war morality combined to create a sense of unbridled freedom.

Of course, pots of money helped too – and in Fitzgerald’s great novel, the battle for irresistible Daisy’s heart is fought between two impossibly wealthy men.

Blackeyed Theatre’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby puts music at the heart of the show, and musical director Ellie Verkerk has done impressive work in arranging a host of contemporary songs. Daisy (Celia Cruwys-Finnigan) opens with the plaintive Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, with other sparkling numbers including Irving Berlin’s What’ll I Do, and The Sheik of Araby from 1921.

The multi-talented cast all play live instruments too, with Gatsby (Max Roll) particularly effervescent on clarinet.

Stephen Sharkey’s adaptation starts brightly with the cast all hopping with excitement over the dazzling guests attending one of Gatsby’s outrageously lavish parties. He is faithful to the book’s essence – not least because outsider Nick Carraway’s narration holds it all together – but there are pitfalls in attempting to capture both the grandeur and ethereal nature of this novel.

The scenes begin to feel rather choppy as the play progresses, despite lynchpin Nick, and there are times when a bit of background sound might help to fill out the stage during the big set-pieces.

Adam Jowett makes a charming and engaging Carraway, holding together the stream of other-worldly characters with a calm air of detachment and sound common sense.

The blustering, bullying Tom Buchanan is given a marvellous self-importance and utter assurance by Tristan Pate.

Jordan Baker’s insouciance and tricksiness are captured by the sleek and super-stylish Celeste De Veazey who wears her succession of gorgeous costumes (designed by Jenny Little) with panache.

While the mix of glamour and intimacy that makes The Great Gatsby such a classic is not entirely captured here, Eliot Giuralarocca’s production has wit, sparkle and some fine performances to sustain it.

 At Artsdepot Finchley, (020 8369 5454)

October 13 and 14, then touring.

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