A dazzling new musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby centers on a pair of dream roles: Daisy Buchanan, with a face described by novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald as “sad and lovely with bright things in it,” and Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic tycoon possessed with a “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.” Bringing these iconic Jazz Age characters to life on Broadway this spring are Tony Award nominees Eva Noblezada (Hadestown, Miss Saigon) and Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, TV’s Smash). Blessed with gorgeous voices and charisma to spare, Noblezada and Jordan created their roles last fall in a sold-out pre-Broadway run at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. In a joint interview with Broadway Direct, the costars shared their thoughts about the enduring appeal of Gatsby and why it’s the perfect source for an extravagant Broadway musical.
How does it feel to be headed to Broadway playing two of the most iconic characters in American literature?
Jeremy Jordan: It’s awesome! It’s been really fun to take on characters people already know — or think they know — and infuse them with new life, flesh them out, and try to understand who they are on a deeper level.
Eva Noblezada: One of my favorite parts of acting is figuring out how to live in the skin of someone completely different to anyone I’ve played before. As much as it’s been challenging, it’s been twice as rewarding. With the awesome story that [book writer] Kait Kerrigan and [lyricist] Nathan Tysen have written, and with [composer] Jason Howland’s incredible music, it feels very exciting to find parts of Daisy that weren’t really explored in the book.
What’s your view of these star-crossed lovers? What do they see in each other?
EN: It’s a dreamlike romance, the quickness of it. At the time Daisy and Gatsby meet, there’s pressure on her to be a certain type of person. As a debutante from a wealthy family, there are expectations of who she should marry, and Gatsby represents a newness that’s exciting to her. She is drawn to his drive, his confidence, and his charisma.
JJ: Daisy is careless and carefree, and he’s very much drawn to that energy. When they meet, he’s a nobody, but he gets a glimpse of the life he could have. Then he goes off to war, and his idea of her builds into an almost impossible ideal. It drives him to go from having nothing to being one of the wealthiest men in New York in only a few years.
Did you think right away that The Great Gatsby would make a fantastic musical?
EN: It has to be a musical, because the world of Gatsby is so grand. The material is dazzling, and it’s very modern. Our team has done a wonderful job of looking at this world, in a setting that’s specific, and tapping into themes that resonate now.
JJ: The opulence of those larger-than-life characters definitely lends itself to a massive stage production, which is what we’ve created with this show. And it takes the right kind of people — in our case, Jason and Nathan — to marry the style and vibe of that time with a more modern take on the music. The same is true of the dance elements, amazingly choreographed by our great friend Dominique Kelley.
Give us a preview of the show’s score. What did you respond to in Jason Howland and Nathan Tysen’s songs?
EN: They’re very deep. When I got the material for my audition, I felt such a pull — I said, “I need to be a part of this show.” I worked hard on the songs before I went in. My goal was to feel so much like Daisy that when the music started, I was there in her memories; I could smell her perfume. I felt so immersed in the world they created, I knew the show was going to be spectacular. Even before I was a part of it, I felt it was special.
JJ: And you knew I was going to be in it.
EN: That is true! [Laughs.]
JJ: For me, what’s cool is that all the characters have different musical motifs. My music is lush, with a large dash of classic musical theater. Most of the stuff I’ve done has been more contemporary, so I get to lean into my classical chops and go big. I’ve known Jason since he was the music supervisor for Bonnie and Clyde [in 2011], so he knows my voice really well, and this is the first time I’ve joined a project I felt like was written for me.
What’s it been like for the two of you to work together? What do you admire about each other’s talent?
JJ: I’ll go first! Eva Noblezada has got this crazy effortless quality to her voice. She hits notes in the most interesting and specific ways that you would never think anyone could do. Her voice has a raspiness, and yet she just goes higher and higher and higher. I was like, “What kind of instrument is this?” Also, she infuses everything with a million percent emotion, which is wonderful for me because I have to keep up with her. It’s nice to feel challenged in that way on stage.
EN: Aww! I’ve been a fan of Jeremy’s for a long time, back when I watched his YouTube videos in school.
JJ: When you were a little child. [Laughs.]
EN: It’s so much fun to have watched and admired someone’s career and then be placed on stage together in this very specific world. We were given a lot of freedom in rehearsal to develop our characters and our relationship. That’s been amazing.
We hear that audiences went wild for the show during the pre-Broadway run. What excites you about continuing your journey with The Great Gatsby?
JJ: The reaction was incredible. Some people responded to the love story; some loved the music; some were surprised at how much they were drawn to different characters. Visually, it’s incredibly stunning, with dramatic storylines and unexpected moments of comedy. We knew there would be big expectations because of the material, and from what I heard, those expectations were exceeded. This show has something for everybody.
EN: I’ve read Gatsby and seen the movie many times, so I loved hearing people’s feedback and the way they were experiencing this world. The piece has so much to offer, and there are so many resonant themes to life right now. Humanity is tested, and then we come together to deal with grief and keep going. At the end of the day, it’s the human experience, and the response has been beautiful. And it’s an extravaganza — I’ll tell you that!
The Great Gatsby will begin performances at the Broadway Theatre on Friday, March 29, 2024, ahead of opening on Thursday, April 25, 2024. Tickets are now on sale on Broadway Direct.
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