Northeastern alum premieres new musical in New York


Recent Northeastern graduate Brooke Di Spirito helmed a musical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and the Damned.” The production showed in New York July 1-3. Photo courtesy of Jason Keswani.

Brenna Thornton, news correspondent

At the start of the month, a musical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Beautiful and Damned,” created by Northeastern alum Brooke Di Spirito, a 2021 Northeastern graduate, premiered in Port Washington, New York. 

The 1922 novel that inspired this show was Fitzgerald’s second notable work. It followed the success of “This Side of Paradise” and predated the iconic “The Great Gatsby” by three years. 

“The Beautiful and Damned” is set in New York City during the Jazz Age of the Roaring Twenties, and it follows several members of the social elite as they navigate the tumultuous period of partying and wealth. At the center of the story are young love interests Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert, a pair inspired by Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. From July 1-3, 100 years after the novel’s original publication, the Jeanne Rimsky Theater brought Anthony and Gloria back to life. 

Originally set to debut in 2020, “The Beautiful and Damned” encountered many obstacles in its road to production due to COVID-19. Its premiere was canceled three different times, but the cast and creative team were ready to finally take the stage this month. 

Dispirito’s musical had changed drastically with each cancellation over the past two years. Delayed performances allowed for more rehearsals, different castings and fresh perspectives. 

“Obviously cancellations are not ideal, and it has been so hard to watch the performing arts struggle due to COVID,” said Maggie Kelly, who plays Gloria’s lawyer Mr. Haight. “However, through [Di Spirito’s] resilience, the show has survived each and every hurdle, and I truly believe that every iteration of the show has gotten better.”

Mike Jubak Jr., who stars as Anthony Patch, explained that the show’s current script is completely different from what he first read last summer when he auditioned.

“Brooke’s mind is always working,” he said. “It makes the show feel like it’s living and breathing constantly. It speaks to the quality of the show itself.”

Jubak explained that creating a new musical poses a special challenge for actors. When putting on a show that has been produced before, actors are usually able to study previous performances and research alternate portrayals of their characters. The lack of existing interpretations was an adjustment during the rehearsal process for “The Beautiful and the Damned.”

“If I’m stuck or if I need to get another perspective, I usually have those resources available to me. Right now, I’m that resource myself,” Jubak said. “It’s a new challenge, one that I’m loving every second of.”

“The Beautiful and Damned” touches on materialism, greed and gratitude. It is a cautionary tale warning of the dire consequences that result from putting money before people. Izzy Ochocki plays both Gloria’s friend Rachael Jerryl and Anthony’s mistress Dorothy Raycroft. She said she hopes audiences leave this show with a renewed appreciation for what money cannot buy.

“It’s never about the money, material possessions or even the exclusive experiences,” Ochocki said. “It’s making sure at the end of the day you have a person or people around you that make you feel loved, and you can safely love in return.”