Theatre Raleigh’s Great Gatsby Prohibition Party Offers a Fresh Approach

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Daisy Buchanan sings "Someone to Watch Over Me." Photo courtesy of Theatre Raleigh.


I attended Theatre Raleigh’s Great Gatsby Prohibition Party Wednesday night unsure of what to expect. I knew it would involve cocktails. I knew the story of The Great Gatsby would be conveyed by actors in some way. I knew to dress in 1920s clothing because it was an immersive event. I wasn’t sure, however, how exactly it would all go down. 

I enjoyed being surprised as each new element of the performance unfolded, so I will not offer too many spoilers in this article. For those who wish to go into it without any expectations, I will begin with the following suggestions:

  1.  It is more fun for everyone – you and the others attending – if you do your best to dress in 1920s clothing. Because of the way it is staged, you will be part of the scenery. You don’t need to go overboard if you’d rather not – it’s an hour-long theater experience, not a 1920s-themed gala – but it won’t be as much fun if you don’t dress up a little. Some people went all-out with feathered headdresses and fringed flapper dresses – I leaned into the costume because I enjoy that kind of thing – but my husband wore a simple three-piece suit and fit in nicely. 
  2. Be on time! You meet in the cabaret-style theater at the front of the building, but the actors begin promptly and soon move you to a separate theater for most of the performance. So you will literally be lost if you arrive late. 
  3. Prepare to interact a bit with the actors as they perform. If you are shy, don’t sit at the tables on the platform (The interactions are brief and pleasant. This isn’t Cirque du Soleil.)
The interior of the jazz club set. Photo courtesy of Theatre Raleigh.

If you want a completely fresh experience when you attend, I suggest you stop reading now. Those who would like a little more description, read on. 

Most of the performance takes place in the De Ann S. Jones Theatre a blackbox theater decked out as a 1920s jazz club. The actors take several roles: they serve drinks (the actress playing Myrtle even cleaned up a patron’s spilled cocktail), sing songs as if performing at a cabaret, and act as Daisy, Gatsby, Tom, Nick, Myrtle and the occasional side character. Some also do cabaret-style dancing. 

Tom and Daisy Buchanan interact with a patron/theater-goer. Photo courtesy of Theatre Raleigh.

The story is interlaced with actors taking the mic and singing 1920s jazz and blues songs. At one point, the audience is invited to get up and dance along with Daisy and Gatsby. Between watching the musicians perform, drinking the specialty cocktails and mocktails developed for the event, and dancing, the evening feels like a crossover between a retro jazz night at a cocktail bar and a play.

The actors interact with patrons as if they are clients at the jazz club. At one point, they identify theater-goers as famous Gatsby-world celebrities, and they sometimes sit down and join patrons at their tables. It really does feel like events are taking place around the viewer, and the viewer is part of the world of the play. The costumes are elaborate and thought out down to the last detail, especially Daisy’s, and the setting creates a very 1920s feel. Look for the green light next to the door at the left side of the stage. 

If this experience interests you and you’d like to learn more, here’s a link. See you at the club. I’ll be the one wearing the peacock feather headdress. The event runs through
Sunday, April 28. 

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