BWW Reviews: The Arvada Center Breathes Energetic Life into Literature with a Solid Ensemble in THE GREAT GATSBY
The regional premiere of F. Scott Fitzgerald's timeless classic, THE GREAT GATSBY (adapted for the stage by Simon Levy) plays at the Arvada Center now through May 25th. In this 2006 adaptation of one of the greatest American novels, audiences get a glimpse into a defining point in our history. It's the 1920s, the age of jazz and women's independence: when wealth, glamour and decadence ignited public fascination. Jay Gatsby embraced the era as he set about acquiring all the trappings of a self-made millionaire. His biggest conquest was the young socialite, Daisy. For years, Gatsby is passionate in his pursuit of her love until it all ends tragically in this classic study of American society in the early 20th century.
"He's just a man named Gatsby."
While Baz Luhrmann's most recent movie adaption highlighted more glitz and glamour, it was lacking the true element to this book. The Arvada Center truly paid their homage to this classic by featuring the memorable story and rich characters that make this book so dear to so many. For this show I decided to attend a matinee and was glad that I did. I was so encouraged to see so many students in the audience whose apathetic and glazed eyes from the classroom were awakening and engaged by these fine performers.
Before I go into individual praises, I have to compliment the entire ensemble on their excellence of knowledge of the story and their characters and professionalism of craft in bringing such life to this classic. Anthony Bianco proved he was leading man material in the role of Jay Gatsby. He was dynamic with an air of intrigue and mystery that kept the audience wanting more and cheering on his unrequited love. Jamie Ann Romero gave a heartfelt and haunting performance in the role of Daisy Buchanan and was mesmerizing to watch from beginning to end. Her husband, Tom (played with brutish excellence by C. Clayton Blackwell) became the character that we loved to hate with his egotistical and slimy ways. I have to say that for me, Nick Carraway was the best role that I have seen Graham Ward play. His performance as the essential narrator was so natural and came with great ease and kept me engaged and enticed. Audra Blaser was stunning and so statuesque as the mysterious and sultry Jordan Baker; and I also thoroughly enjoyed the passionate portrayal of Cailin Doran as the mistress, Myrtle Wilson.
Director Gavin Mayer took his time casting this show and found the talent to truly honor this literature. I also appreciated his fluid transitions and treating this entire show as it were all just a memory. This was further emphasized by the superb set by designer Brian Mallgrave and lighting by Vance McKenzie and I noted the small details like frayed and cracked edges, soft lighting and fun use of shadows. All of these effects gave the appearance of fading grandeur in a distant memory. Costume design by Clare Henkel and wig and makeup design by Diana Ben-Kiki was another highlight of the show and each character had a distinct and stunning look. I truly adored the sharp contrast in costume between the rich and the poor classes of the times.
Another wonderful and engaging effort by the fine talents of the Arvada Center! THE GREAT GATSBY plays the Black Box Theater of The Arvada Center now through May 25th. For tickets or additional information call the box office by calling 720-898-7200 or online at www.arvadacenter.org.
PICTURED ABOVE: Anthony Bianco as Jay Gatsby
PHOTO CREDIT: P. Switzer Photography
Jamie Ann Romero as Daisy and Graham Ward as Nick
L-R: Anthony Bianco (Jay Gatsby), C. Clayton Blackwell (Tom), Jamie Ann Romero (Daisy) and Audra Blaser (Jordan)
Graham Ward as Nick and Audra Blaser as Jordan
Anthony Bianco as Jay Gatsby and Jamie Ann Romero as Daisy Buchanan
L-R: Graham Ward (Nick Carraway) and Anthony Bianco (Jay Gatsby) Seated L-R: Jamie Ann Romero (Daisy Buchanan) and C. Clayton Blackwell (Tom Buchanan)
From This Author Michael Mulhern