(Written by Jonathan Sim, ComingSoon.net)
Put on your Sunday best and step back into the Roaring Twenties with The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show. Mr. Jay Gatsby is throwing a party at his mansion, and it’s the hottest ticket in town! Arrive at the Gatsby Mansion in the Park Central Hotel in New York City, and you will be privy to one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous works. Formal attire of the Jazz Age is encouraged as you become a guest at one of Gatsby’s most infamous parties. Orange and blue lighting fills this high-class atmosphere with a bar and some of the most sparkly, outrageous suits and dresses you will ever see.
As I entered the Gatsby Mansion, a character portrayed by Kiki Burns welcomed us into the bar, where the main events of the production take place. With limited seating available, those looking to sit with their drinks should arrive early. As I waited for the show to start, I was surprised that it had already begun. I was joined at my table by Kitty Klipspringer (Stephanie Cha) and Jordan Baker (Stephanie Rocio), two party guests who would later take on a role in the evening’s production. We banter about our jobs, then after a few minutes, they carry on.
While most Broadway and off-Broadway shows will seat you comfortably in the audience while you watch the performers work their magic on stage, The Great Gatsby works a little differently. Rather than separating performer and audience, the lines blur as attendees of Gatsby’s party are on the same floor as the performers. If this were a scene in a film, every audience member would be an extra, standing right next to characters like Nick Carraway and sometimes getting up close and personal with them.
The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show promises an evening to remember. By attending Mr. Gatsby’s party, you can repeat the past, stepping into an era from a century prior. The gorgeous production design and vibrant, charismatic performers bring out all the stops in this play that only gets elevated by the presence of your fellow audience members. To quote Fitzgerald in his famous literary work from which this play is adapted from, “the air is alive with chatter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.” The performers are an instrumental part of the show, but the audience brings this party to life.
Beginning with Rob Brinkmann’s show-stopping performance as Nick Carraway, his opening monologue rolls off the tongue with ease despite being a mouthful on paper. You will be looking forward, next to, and behind you during your evening, wondering at first when the elusive Mr. Gatsby will make his first appearance. When he arrives, portrayed by the enchanting Joel Acosta, the story swings into motion. From there, we get a faithful adaptation of Fitzgerald’s work, perfect for the old sports who love the tale he came up with, and want to be a part of bringing it to life.
However, the entirety of the show is not set in that jazz bar. There are certain moments where the actors invite groups of audience members to other rooms in the mansion for more intimate encounters, speaking directly to them. Sometimes, Nick Carraway will be in need of advice. In other instances, the charismatic Meyer Wolfsheim (Charlie Marcus) will be showing you a card trick. Go into the right room, and you’ll even get to help write a love song that gets performed by Kitty live and in the room. Although these improvisational moments offer fleeting fun, it can be a challenge to keep up with the lightning-quick pace of everything. Furthermore, even though the transitions between the small rooms to the jazz bar can be smooth, you can sometimes overhear more enticing events at the bar, and wonder what you’re missing.
This show allows everyone in the audience to be involved, sometimes having innocent spectators be named Johnson and performing duties such as sweeping the floor in preparation for Daisy. This sequence is a stand-out moment in the show, where we have the chaos of everyone energetically organizing the room, and then everything comes to a stop when Daisy and Gatsby lock eyes. The live piano music enhances the magical moment as we watch in silence at these two in an intimate moment of rediscovery. The romantic scene has a beautiful dance number with flower petals flying in the air. It is the best scene in the show.
The Great Gatsby offers a potpourri of all that encompasses live theater. There is acting, singing, tap dancing, and a character even plays two trumpets at once. Nick and Gatsby will have brief conversations in front of a select few audience members during intermission, all to set up what will come next. This is a production where actors will have to squeeze by you and say “excuse me” while running to their cue, making it feel more organic and in the moment. We have excellent performances from all involved, particularly Shahzeb Hussain in his antagonistic role as Tom. Although Hussain looks far different from his description in the book, he commands the floor with his presence.
The smaller rooms are not as visually interesting and filled with hidden details as other immersive experiences and can sometimes feel like a distraction from the main events, though there is a lot to admire about this production. The lighting cues, the sound effects, and the way they adapt Fitzgerald’s work into a medium that feels perfectly suited to it. Getting to dance with Daisy and the other party guests is the tip of the iceberg for a wonderful experience, particularly for those who admire a bygone era.
Become one of Mr. Gatsby’s guests at The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show, now playing performances at the Park Central Hotel. For the hottest ticket in town, please visit their website here.