How 'The Great Gatsby' Star Noah J. Ricketts Found His (Green) Light

noah ricketts the great gatsby
Meet 'The Great Gatsby' Star Noah J. RickettsMatthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

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“If I’m being completely honest,” Noah J. Ricketts says, “I first read it when, like most teenagers, I was forced to, and I remember not really liking it.”

The text in question is The Great Gatsby, and when Ricketts was a high-school student in Louisville, Ky., F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story of aspiration and reinvention among the elite didn’t quite land for him. “I didn’t feel a deep connection to the characters,” Ricketts admits.

Then, he moved to New York City. “Later, when I revisited the story, I was like, OK, I get this,” he says. “The ideas about class, money, and division hit much harder after I’d moved and experienced some life; I had an awakening to how deep this story actually is.”

noah j ricketts gatsby
Noah J. Ricketts plays Nick Carraway in the Broadway musical The Great Gatsby, on now at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. Josh Drake

It was a vital realization, considering that today Ricketts is starring as Nick Carraway in the Broadway production of a new, musical The Great Gatsby, on now at the Broadway Theatre. It’s a big, razzle-dazzle show, a riot of 1920s costumes, tap dancing, fireworks, and vintage cars that the New York Times called “a lot of Jazz Age fun,” and it’s also leading a pack of Gatsby stage adaptations—including an upcoming Cambridge, Mass., production of a musical written by Martyna Majok with songs by Florence Welch, and the Public Theater’s revival of the six-and-a-half-hour Gatz coming in November—that make the case the story is as vital today as it was when it was first published in 1925.

“Fitzgerald was way ahead of his time, and he hit the nail on the head in terms of the sobering reality of how human beings can be,” Ricketts, who previously appeared in Broadway productions of Frozen and Beautiful and recently starred in the Showtime series Fellow Travelers, says. “One of the most beautiful things that I took away from the book is this question that you can't necessarily answer: Why do we keep reaching? That's what has made Gatsby last and stay with people for a hundred years.”

the great gatsby broadway
Noah J. Ricketts, Sara Chase, and John Zdrojeski in The Great Gatsby. Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

That might be what’s kept Gatsby the book relevant for nearly a century, but the musical has a few additional bells and whistles working in its favor. In addition to Ricketts’s Carraway—somewhat reimagined as Jay Gatsby’s tenant and Jordan Baker’s love interest—the show stars the intoxicating pairing of Jeremy Jordan as the title character and Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan, and offers audiences both the over-the-top Roaring Twenties extravaganza that packs seats, and a thoughtful, nuanced take on the novel’s themes that offers substance to balance out the style.

“Noah has such an incredible ability to make you pay attention, lean in, and watch what he's thinking—and his brain is always ticking, which I really love,” says Kait Kerrigan, the show’s writer. “He's somebody who, as we developed the part, was always looking to figure out what his character was doing, which is so important for Nick Carraway because Nick is an observer… Noah’s not writing the part, but he's thinking about it the way a writer thinks about things, which for a character like Nick is so valuable.”

That could be in part because Ricketts understands Carraway’s position as a newcomer to a sometimes-overwhelming world of excess. “When I first came to New York, I was a terrible, terrible waiter,” he says, “but I managed to get a catering gig and I went to a fashion party at Cipriani. I had never been in a space like that, and I had never been around so many people drinking martinis and wearing beautiful gowns. There I was, serving shrimp cocktail on a platter and being like, this is a real thing, this is how the other half lives. But it was also a glimpse into how fabulous this other side of things can be.”

That’s part of what makes the show’s arrival on Broadway—it first premiered in 2023 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey—so satisfying for Ricketts. “Everyone remembers arriving in New York for the first time; it's a feeling that you just don't forget,” he says, echoing Fitzgerald’s famous line about how the city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time. “I love the start of the show, because that is that moment where anything is possible. You don't know what's coming your way, but you're so optimistic about it. That's the journey for Nick and also for the audience: They start coming off the train at the Pennsylvania Station and then whatever is it that happens from there happens.”

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