The Korea Herald


Splashy 'The Great Gatsby' musical marks first Broadway adaptation, producer Shin's dream come true

Attention now turns to commercial success, award nominations for $25 million production

By Park Ga-young

Published : April 30, 2024 - 20:18

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"The Great Gatsby," a musical that opened Thursday in New York, features Jeremy Jordan as Jay Gatsby and Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan. (OD Company)

NEW YORK -- The first musical adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” was unveiled on Thursday at the Broadway Theatre in New York after three weeks of previews, with all 1,763 seats filled.

The opening of the musical based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel of the same title marks just the start of potential competition among various interpretations to come, since the story entered into the public domain on Jan. 1, 2021.

As the first Broadway show of “The Great Gatsby,” the production was orchestrated by a creative team consisting of director Marc Bruni, playwright Kait Kerrigan, composer Jason Howland, lyricist Nathan Tysen and choreographer Dominique Kelley.

Shin Chun-soo, founder and chief producer of the Seoul-based OD Company, wasted no time when "The Great Gatsby" entered the public domain, swiftly moving to bring his long-held dream to fruition. Collaborating with Marc Bruni, whom he had met roughly a decade earlier, they swiftly turned their idea into reality. Bruni then introduced Shin to musical theater composer Howland, whom Shin had also previously encountered.

By October 2021, the first draft of the script and music were ready.

The premiere took place on Oct. 12, 2023 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and ran until Nov. 12, during which all performances were sold out.

Following its successful run, the production moved to the Broadway Theatre, where the team continued to refine the show, implementing changes and enhancements to further elevate the production during the preview period between March 29 and April 24.

From left: Composer Jason Howland, OD Company CEO and producer Shin Chun-soo and director Marc Bruni pose for photos during a press conference at the Korean Cultural Center in New York on Friday. (OD Company) From left: Composer Jason Howland, OD Company CEO and producer Shin Chun-soo and director Marc Bruni pose for photos during a press conference at the Korean Cultural Center in New York on Friday. (OD Company)

For Shin, who likened himself to Jay Gatsby from "The Great Gatsby" due to his ambitious dreams, the novel seemed to offer the perfect inspiration for his third Broadway attempt and his inaugural solo venture as a producer.

“Being a solo producer means taking on all the responsibilities, and I felt a sense of loneliness from time to time. But (the opening day) was unbelievable and I felt dizzy the whole day.” Shin said.

"This process is very rare: to have someone with so much faith in the creative team (and) give them the resources to be able to create in the way that they would like to, and Mr. Shin said yes to a lot of things along the way," director Bruni said.

Working in tandem, Shin and the creative team fashioned what might be the most lavish adaptation of the novel, which has sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Against a backdrop of sumptuous jazz-infused music and extravagant attire, the musical features Jeremy Jordan as Jay Gatsby and Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan. Noah J. Ricketts and Samantha Pauly portray Nick, the original story's narrator, and the character of Jordan, respectively, bringing a fresh perspective to the familiar narrative.

While the audience can expect more adaptations to be unveiled on Broadway and elsewhere after the first Broadway musical of “The Great Gatsby,” the show's creative team said they hoped to demonstrate “what it means to be a big, splashy musical” that can appeal to everyone.

“‘The Great Gatsby’ is very unique in its scale, in its 19-piece orchestra, in its visuals that are so dazzling. That's something that a lot of people are experiencing in their first musical in coming to see ‘The Great Gatsby.’ That's a wonderful feeling to know that this would be an entryway to a lot of young people discovering what it means to love theater,” Howland said, adding that the composer is aware of seven other Great Gatsby productions currently in development.

For Bruni and the other creative team members, there were more reasons to bring the novel to the stage than simply because it became part of the public domain.

"This was created during the pandemic. Kait, Jason and Nathan did some research and looked at the society of the 1920s and saw they too were coming out of a pandemic and their society was taken over by new technologies that were moving faster than they knew how to deal with them," Bruni told reporters during a press conference held Friday at the Korean Cultural Center in New York.

"And so, there was a real, natural parallel between the societies of the 1920s and the 2020s, so finding ways in which the audience would be able to kind of make that parallel in their minds was a cornerstone of the beginning of creating this," he added.

Shin expressed confidence in his creative team and actors, as well as in the commercial success of the show, which cost about $25 million to produce.

So far, the show's prospects look promising.

In the week ending April 21, "The Great Gatsby" reached an attendance number of 11,308 for eight shows, grossing a total of $1,033,970, according to data from The Broadway League as of Tuesday.

"I've been really happy throughout the process, working together with these people. Now that the production part is over, I will continue my efforts (to achieve) the next steps," Shin told reporters.

The next steps for "The Great Gatsby" include a tour of the US, the UK, Australia and more, he said. Shin also said he plans to bring the show to South Korea within the next two years.

A scene from A scene from "The Great Gatsby," a musical that opened Thursday at the Broadway Theatre in New York. (OD Company)