A New York buzz

1920s New York City comes to Kelowna this July                                                                 

“Ev’ry morning, ev’ry evening … ain’t we got fun?”

I am just back from New York City. The trip was to show my mom around one of the most exciting cities in the world in celebration of her 65th birthday.

 If you have visited The City That Never Sleeps, you already know what makes it so amazing —the iconic landmarks, the people and food are incredible — but for me it is the incredible talent that makes the city buzz with pure excitement.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that I am directing The Great Gatsby. Set in New York City in The Jazz Age, a term coined by the author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the story opens with the frenzy that is the 1920s.

Post-war, pre-Depression; the city drank, danced and partied like there was no tomorrow. Woman loosened their corsets, stiffened their determination and became suffragettes and flappers.  

Men who had survived the horrors of trench warfare were ready to celebrate and had no qualms about drinking bootlegged liquor, gambling and having illicit affairs with flappers and maybe even suffragettes in secret clubs called Speakeasies.

There was the established wealthy, like The Vanderbilts and Astors, and the new rich who made it through post-war real estate and bonds like The Rockefellers.

Fitzgerald showed the division of the rich classes and also the poor who laboured long hours for little pay just so the upper classes could party. It is this setting that the haunting, compelling events of The Great Gatsby take place.  

The short novel, published in 1925, is considered one of the most perfectly written works of literature and is a compelling time capsule of a place and time that seems pure fantasy to us today.

Because I knew I was directing the play, I was constantly on the lookout and took copious notes for authentic inspiration for our production. Dialect is huge in New York and with the help of famed vocal coach David LeReaney (Fargo), our cast will be representing many of the boroughs and classes of the famed city-from Manhattan to Long Island to Queens.

For instance, my Mom and I stayed in the famous Iroquois Hotel, pronounced “ear-o-qoise” by true New Yorkers.  

I also found an inspiration for a Speakeasy next door at the iconic Algonquin Hotel where The Vicious Circle met regularly at the back round table. It also houses The Blue Bar, opened by Frank Case and John Barrymore, his Hollywood partner and noted silent film actor.  

It was said Barrymore told Case to replace the lights with blue gels because this is what made bar patrons most attractive in the evening, so he did. I had my first Manhattan in Manhattan, at The Algonquin, an old school hotel where no fewer than five waiters fussed over our orders of two drinks and a dessert.

Most inspiring of all were the performers we saw. Did you know you can see The Jimmy Fallon Show, Maya and Marty, Saturday Night Live, Seth Meyers (at 30 Rock) and The View all for free?

It takes a little legwork but we managed to be in the audience to see Jimmy, Maya, Marty and Whoopi and even some friends at home saw us in the audience.  

You can also see great street performances outside of The Today Show and Good Morning America, especially in the summer months. Central Park was alive with everything you imagine from the horse drawn carts to the street performers who do acrobatics and play street jazz as well as if you saw them on stage.

Being a theatre fan first and foremost, it was absolutely essential we see shows. My choice was to see Blackbird with Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels.

This riveting two hander had some of the most shocking and beautiful stage moments I have ever seen on stage while my Mom’s choice, Beautiful about the life and music of Carole King, was the perfect way to end our trip.

The common denominator between Whoopi, Jimmy Fallon, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and those street performers in Central Park? Each and every one of them let you know as audience members how much they truly appreciated having you in the audience.

They were not just saying it. They meant it.

Like them, the stars of our glamorous, haunting and beautiful production truly invite all of you to see our show. The stunning cast will wow you and make you feel like you have truly tripped the light fantastic to 1920’s New York City.

We even have a post-show Speakeasy that you can hang out in and grab a drink in post-show. Knock three times, show your ticket and we will show you a great time, we promise.  

The show stars Graham Daley as Gatsby and features a who’s who of up and coming genius actors-Dana Murphy, Adam Weaver, Zach Boyd, Ashley Plomp, Michelle Tillack, Cory Armour, Vince Walzak, James Szabo, Emily Friesen, Hailey Sabourin, Hillary Omoe and Blake Wilkins.

Costumes and styling are divinely designed by Angela Bricker of Georgie Girl Vintage.

The Great Gatsby by Simon Levy plays July 13-18, and 20-23 at The Rotary Centre For The Arts.

Advance Tickets are $30/$35 at the door. New Vintage and RCA Members, $25.

Tickets are also available here or by calling (250) 717-5304.

For more about New Vintage Theatre, check out our website.




More Bonnie on Stage articles

About the Author

Bonnie Gratz is an actor, director, and playwright. She is the Artistic Director of Kelowna's New Vintage Theatre, and a member of the Playwright's Guild of Canada and The Literary and Dramaturges of North America. 

For more on Bonnie, check out www.bonnie-gratz.com or check out www.newvintage.ca

Contact Bonnie at:  [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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