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Gatsby gets the musical treatment at world-premiere in Cambridge

Gatsby musical, with score by Florence Welch, premieres in Boston
Gatsby musical, with score by Florence Welch, premieres in Boston 02:27

CAMBRIDGE - The F. Scott Fitzgerald masterpiece, "The Great Gatsby," is now lighting up the stage at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge.

American Repertory Theater's new production of "Gatsby: An American Myth," a world premiere musical about Fitzgerald's classic,   has a pedigree creative team and a host of young Broadway stars in the cast.

Boston grads return for 'Gatsby'

"I remember sitting (as a student) in that theater thinking like, 'Oh my God, I want to work here so badly,'" said Eleri Ward. She may be best known for her indie-folk renditions of Stephen Sondheim songs, but she said acting is her first love. Playing Jordan Baker is a dream come true for the Boston Conservatory grad, who said, "The fact that it's real ... really is not lost on me, especially because it's taken so long for me to get here."

With direction by Tony-winner Rachel Chavin, a book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Martyna Majok, and a score by Florence Welch and Thomas Barlett, "Gatsby: An American Myth," digs deep into the famous story.

Actor Sam Simahk, who is the standby for Gatsby, said "The Boston audiences that I know and love, they're not typically there for the spectacle. They're there for the art, and they're there for the intellectual storytelling."

Going beyond 'Gatsby'  

Simahk graduated from Emerson College and spent years doing theater across the Boston area, performing at the Greater Boston Stage, The Lyric and Speakeasy.

He knows this story is beloved and said "In the book, there's so much that's about Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan and their love, but there are other storylines that are very important. And seeing them get expanded, the expansion of those storylines helps tell a stronger story.... (But) we might forget about some of the deeper themes of the story, which are the dark underpinnings of the American dream, who gets sacrificed in the pursuit of progress, who dies for the sins of the wealthy."

Ward said the music does so much more than just help bring the story to life. "I think what is happening here in this show is pushing those limitations and those preconceived notions of what contemporary musical theater sounds like."

"This is a production that has a lot of teeth and has a lot of grit, and I think people come expecting disco balls, which they might get, and they'll leave with a critique about American society," Simahk said.

The American Repertory Theater's production of "Gatsby: An American Myth" at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge through Aug. 3.

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