This raucous show could be the closest you’ll get to spending a whirlwind evening inside an extravagant Baz Luhrmann flick. Taking over The Studio in the belly of the Sydney Opera House, Gatsby at the Green Light is a sauced-up variety show that transports audiences into a pop-up, vintage-inspired night club (complete with a functional bar). Think of this production as a sort of live concept album – featuring a smorgasboard of circus acts, top-shelf burlesque, evocative live singing, and impressive aerial artistry – with the rare art of hair-hanging to boot.
Gatsby cherry-picks from the glitz and glamour of one of Jay Gatsby’s famous parties, remixes it, and serves it up as an escapist fantasy where the roaring ’20s meets the 2020s. In doing so, this show masters the timeless allure of a particular niche of spectacle: watching profusely talented and beautiful people performing seriously difficult tricks and dangling precariously in the air (before elegantly dismounting with a brazen wink).
ARIA-nominated singer Odette is a stand out member of the ensemble, the earthy and mystical vocal quality of the siren of the Inner West providing a soulful connective thread to the mixed bag of acts. Odette collaborated with musical director Kim Moyes (best known as one-half of iconic Australian electronic duo The Presets) on an original song for the production – although, it’s her covers of hit songs that will continue to play on repeat in your mind (her audacious take on ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ is worth the price of admission alone).
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Unlike some other takes on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ever-popular 1925 novel, this fanciful interpretation skims past the more meaningful class commentary in the source material. The tragic story of Gatsby and Daisy's forbidden love is woven in by way of broad gestures and snippets of pre-recorded dialogue (playing Gatsby himself, Beau Sargent performs some of the most emotive aerial storytelling I’ve ever seen). If you know the original story, you can fill the gaps – the narrative is thin here, but it is secondary to the atmosphere and the sideshow stunts.
That said, this show is surprisingly queer – particularly when it comes to the sapphic humour that commanding burlesque siren Bettie Bombshell brings to the stage. (Her act will have you either questioning or affirming your orientation).
With Gatsby, director Craig Ilott confirms his talent for pulling together exciting, variety-filled extravaganzas. After all, he is the same mastermind behind last summer’s French-infused theatrical dinner cabaret experience L’Hôtel, disco-spectacular Velvet Rewired, and five-star blockbuster Amadeus. This is a guaranteed evening of escapist fantasy.
Gatsby ain’t no one-size-fits-all experience, with multiple ticketing options to choose from. To feel truly immersed in the action, go for the VIP Package ($159.90-$169.90) – this gets you stage-side cabaret table seating and a 1920s-style cocktail and canape package* served by the cast (*the quality and tastiness of the canapes on your plate will vary). For a cheaper option with a clearer view of the action (minus snacks), go for regular theatre seating ($74.90-$134.90).
Gatsby at The Greenlight is playing an extended season at the Sydney Opera House until March 24, 2024. Snap up tickets over here.