BWW Review: THE GREAT GATSBY at ZAO THEATRE is a Spectacular Show 'Old Sport'
It takes a lot more than the actors' performance to make a great show. Along with the acting, a spectacular set and visuals, Lighting and sound, and staying true to the material are cogs that set one well-oiled machine of a show apart from the others. Zao theatres production of The Great Gatsby is almost a textbook-like example of how to fit your cogs together to create one solid show.
The Great Gatsby follows the life of Nick Carraway and his interactions with his cousin and her husband, Daisy, and Tom, close friend, Jordan Baker, and Nick's West Egg, rumor ensuing neighbor, Jay Gatsby. The story unfolds, sending Nick through the twists and turns of decadence, deceit, and the self-centeredness of upper-class life in Prohibition-era New York.
Ben Teitz brings a nervous like charisma with his depiction of Nick Carraway. As the show's narrator, Teitz plays the voice of reason and morality throughout, a seemingly natural fit for the actor. He has innate chemistry with Jordan Baker, played by Kelly Fulcher. However, his connection with Kellen Garner as Jay Gatsby is magnetic. Of course, Garner plays the perfect Gatsby, bringing his ease of embodying any character he touches, with this love-struck socialite being no exception. Ashley Letizia makes Daisy Buchanan the character you love to hate. Daisy goes from someone you have hope for, begging for her connection to Gatsby to thrive as it should have, just to fizzle into an indecisive woman with a voice full of money. Letizia, fortunately, and unfortunately, plays her flawlessly. Continuing on the easy to hate path, Jeff Montgomery's Tom Buchanan is a character that knows how to incite true loathing. Montgomery plays up Tom's drunken privilege, yet and still holding the audience's curiosity in a state of "what next." Not to be outdone, Rebecca Bryce and Bryan Stewart always make the perfect pair on stage. The duo play Myrtle and George Wilson, allowing for no compromise to their ability to gleam best together as always.
A show like this doesn't seem to call for a very large ensemble. Seeing over fifteen people adding additional depth to this cast made me initially curious about where it made sense to have them all. I, of course, should have trusted that Director Mickey Bryce knew what he was doing because the entire company seemed to fit there perfectly, filling the stage at all the right moments. Choreographer Ashley Harkey created a look as far as the movement that was simple and precise, making party scenes with the entire cast seem full of life, yet not distracting from scenes as a whole. Aswell, standout talent like Jeremy Cruz, Tyler Galley, Zack Pepe, and Punawai Abang, drew the eye on each group numbers.
Visually, this show was spectacular. John Michael Sanders did a fantastic job with set design. The use of projected images and video placed this show on a higher tier, bringing not only versatility to the set, but also fluidity in scenes where video helped progress scenes with internal thought. Bob Nelson did a great job with Lighting Design, with on-stage effects being the icing on the cake. Sound has been an issue I have noticed with previous productions at this venue. However, whatever updates were made, or work was done by Sound Designer Matt Sanders should be commended.
It is an amazing feeling to see a show that is simply pleasing on all fronts. This was one solid show, a plate filled with proper sized portions that leave you in the end satiated. Zao Theatre is continuing to grow as a haven for great theatre productions, and we as patrons cannot wait to attend the next spectacle. This production of The Great Gatsby runs from August 9th to 24th. Don't let this production slip by "old sport."
You can find tickets HERE