Broadway By Design: THE GREAT GATSBY

The Great Gatsby is running on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre.

By: Jun. 15, 2024
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In Broadway by Design, BroadwayWorld is shining a spotlight on the stellar designs of this Broadway season, show by show. Today, we continue with the creatives from The Great Gatsby- Scenic and Projection Designer Paul Tate DePoo III, Lighting Designer Cory Pattak, Sound Designer Brian Ronan, and Tony nominated Costume Designer Linda Cho.


The Great Gatsby follows eccentric and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of the lost love of his youth, Daisy Buchanan. Through its fascinatingly nuanced characters – driven by complex inner lives, erupting with extravagance and longing – this epic tale has always been destined to sing. Now, it finally comes to life on the greatest American stage, through an electrifying jazz and pop-infused score, and a grand production befitting the 21st century. 

Where did the design process begin? Scenic and projection designer Paul Tate DePoo III went straight to the text. "The novel itself, deeply anchored in the opulent yet turbulent 1920s, inspires uniquely vivid imagery for each reader," he explaiend. "I embraced the elegant curves of Art Nouveau and the bold, industrial geometry of Art Deco, while aiming to refresh these historical styles beyond their sometimes clichéd interpretations.

"In collaboration with director Marc Bruni, we delved into the architectural symbolism of the Gatsby mansion - its walls and gates designed to both invite and protect, mirroring the dualities within Gatsby himself. The world we created on stage had to be both alluring and impenetrable, embodying the complexities of Gatsby’s obsessions, secrets, and fate. I began to imagine the stage as Gatsby’s sanctuary: a protective barrier, a shrine to love, a chapel for union, and a cage of eternal confinement."

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

"The final design integrates brass structure, cage like gratings, distortive glass panes, reconfigurable moving elements, and scene-specific units to create a visual narrative that encourages the audience to seamlessly blend physical scenery with projection, all while experiencing the illusion of smoke and mirrors behind The Great Gatsby."

"The lighting approach for The Great Gatsby is rarely one of subtlety, taking cues from Jay Gatsby himself," added lighting designer Corey Pattak. "In the spirit of ‘more is more,’ there is no design element on this show that hides in the shadows. The entire surrounding set is a series of gold portals and arches with a swirling teal floor that emulates the water between East and West Egg. Much of the lighting pulls from those colors with rich golds and ambers contrasting with cool teals and cyans. And of course, there is the famous green light. Many of the blue/green colors throughout are a riff on the green light that is always pulling Gatsby. Also importantly, the lighting supports the music written by Jason Howland which spans jazz, pop, swing and big-old-fashion Broadway tunes. The lighting matches the music every step of the way, hitting every accent, build and and crescendo.

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

"Paul and I spent weeks working to create the perfect illusion between scenery, lighting, and video to blur the lines of what ends where. It allows us to keep surprising the audience with new locations and ways to use the stage space. There are transitions that transform the entire stage in just a matter of seconds. Hopefully, the audience will not always know what is real dimensional scenery, video or lighting, or how we even got from location to another."

Costume design Linda Cho first looked to the show's setting. "My process begins with real period silhouettes," she said. "What opens the door for my imagination to take another step into lavish fantasy and blend the 20’s with a more contemporary silhouette is the lush music, exciting choreography and gorgeous sets."

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

Brian Ronan found Gatsby's sound with the help of the creative team. "My inspiration for this design was led by our composer, Jason Howland, and his music," he added. "The score has various styles and influences. Pop, swing, traditional Broadway. I needed to create a listening environment for the audience that complemented all those variations. There is also a practical element of my sound design that requires every seat in the house to hear the show the same way. The architecture of the Broadway theatre dictates my choices in achieving that goal and thus my inspiration for the show’s design."

Where did the deisgn team's biggest challenges arise? "Democracy is never easy and that holds true for the sound of a show as well. Getting the director, composer, lyricist, book writer and producers to agree on a commercial sound requires a level of cooperation and sacrifice that can prove challenging at times," Ronan explained.

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

"I found the biggest challenge wasn’t a technical one, but more that the property is so well-known and everyone has preconceived relationships to the material," said Pattak. "We all became keenly aware how passionate people are about the book and how everyone believes strongly in their version of what The Great Gatsby should focus on and how it should be presented. There is a real kind of ownership of the material and the characters that has been fascinating to watch. From iconic scenes in the book, to specific locations, and even down to specific lines, everyone coming to the show is hoping to see their dream version come to life in front of them. Obviously, it’s impossible to make the perfect version for every audience member, so in a way, the biggest challenge has also been the most freeing part. We made the version we believe in, the version we would want to see and the version that we think would work best as a big Broadway musical."

"The biggest challenge on this would be editing," said Cho "There were so many variations of delicious fabrics and creative fabrications, it is hard not to want to all of it onstage, at once!"

"One of the greatest challenges in this process was ensuring each setting was distinct and effectively conveyed the book’s diverse locales," added dePoo. "The Buchanan's classic mansion surprisingly proved the hardest to crack; we needed to transition between its stately interior overlooking the sound and its grand exterior with a sweeping driving range scale lawn,  requiring that we turned the audience's perspective 180 degrees - all while presenting a stark contrast to the sleek, New Money aesthetic of Jay Gatsby’s mansion across the way. Within several scenes that take place in Gatsby’s mansion, we take several tours throughout Gatsby’s that require us to travel from one room to the next across the property, never repeating a location which naturally demands a progressive visual feast."

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

The Great Gatsby: A New Musical

"The novel's constant movement between New York City and Long Island was mirrored in our adaptation, which featured over 50 scene changes visible to the audience. I aimed for these transitions to move and breathe with the music and choreography, while ensuring that we never concealed a transition behind traditional full-stage masking. We also have two full sized cars that take us along for the ride… 

"The above required design and engineering of scenic and video elements that not only transitioned smoothly backstage but also adapted to natural ongoing rewrites - a common yet formidable challenge in the creation of a new musical. It was a complex endeavor that demanded meticulous collaboration across all departments. I am beyond grateful for the many wizards that make this show happen - the incredible team working behind, above, and underneath the stage. Everyone that helped conquer these challenges loves making the impossible a reality - and for that we had the time of our lives."


The Great Gatsby is running on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre.





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