Most people would be familiar with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby (or at least Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film of the same name) and the story of mysterious and wealthy Jay Gatsby, his love for Daisy Buchanan and his unfortunate end. GATSBY at The Green Light, playing at the Sydney Opera House, transforms this tale into a decadent and vivid night of entertainment and awe.
Directed by Craig Ilott, with Musical Direction by Kim Moyes, GATSBY evokes 1920s glamour with a modern twist. Entering the room is like stepping into a bar – or a speakeasy – with bartenders and pristinely dressed wait staff dispensing cocktails.
As the night gets underway, you realise these aren’t simply waiters; it’s a highly skilled group of dancers who seamlessly move between serving drinks and choreographed routines. That barman (Florian Brooks) isn’t just polishing glasses, he’s using them (and other props) to expertly juggle and the dish-boy (Bayley Graham) doesn’t simply wipe down the counter-top, he’s tap dancing across it with precision and flare.
The aerial artistry on display was second to none, with Oscar Kaufmann incorporating a hat stand into his defiance of gravity and couple Zac Smith and Jemma Crump bringing a beautiful sensuality and connection to the stage. This sensuality was also apparent in the stunning skills of burlesque performer Bettie Bombshell whose abilities with fire and whips are a sight to behold.
Fault can not be found with any of the performers, whose skill, and sheer strength in many cases, is to be praised and admired. While the aerial acts were mesmerising, there was a lot of them. By the fourth or fifth performance you could feel the audience enthusiasm waning. This is not a reflection on the artists – far from it – simply that a sustained level of heightened awareness over the course of 75 minutes is a lot. Including more solo vocal numbers where it is just the talented Odette performing, without the elaborate dance routines, would have provided a nice palette cleanser and a chance for people’s overstimulated senses to down-regulate.
The music choices were interesting, with a lot more contemporary songs taking centre stage, and in many cases this worked (particularly a tap routine to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk). Although, it would have been in keeping with the overarching theme to have more jazz style music interwoven throughout. While there was a brief flirtation with the Charleston, given this dance is emblematic of the period, showcasing it to a fuller extent would have been fun.
Considering America was under Prohibition during the 1920s, a nice touch would be to serve alcohol in teapots and tea cups to those seated at tables, as was a common trend during this time. Whenever presented with an immersive performance which hitches it’s wagon to a particular era, it is the small attentions to detail that elevate it to an experience, more than just a novelty.
GATSBY at The Green Light is a fun and frivolous night out. Overflowing with talented performers, it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up and loose yourself in the magic of a bygone era.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
GATSBY at The Green Light plays at the Studio, Sydney Opera House until 24 March 2024.
For more information and to purchase tickets head to the Sydney Opera House website.
Reviewer attended on 28 December 2023
Photos: Prudence Upton