Anyone who reads this site, and certainly if they follow me on social media, knows that I love Jeremy Jordan. He’s the bees knees of Broadway it-boys and the light of my Youtube algorithm. So when I realized he was playing the lead in the new Great Gatsby adaptation, and that it was having its out-of-town try-out at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse, I was pretty quickly on board for a road trip. My husband- very excited about his new car, very much on the theatre bandwagon, very into a weekend getaway that requires no vacation days- was into it. So we hopped in our tiny Mitsubishi and hit the road for what ended up being a very weird but very charming adventure.


Where We Stayed

Our first night on the road, we crashed in a little cabin at a placed called Rainbow Mountain Lodge in the Poconos. The LGBTQ-oriented resort was pretty quiet in late October but one gets the sense it’s usually hopping with community activities. The property is beautiful and the staff incredibly welcoming, though the food in the restaurant leaves much to be desired. There wasn’t any working heat or hot water in our cabin (I think there was supposed to be, it just wasn’t working) but the bed was incredibly comfy and the place in general was a fun change from a conventional hotel.


Our second night, we chose a classic BnB near-ish the theatre in Maplewood, New Jersey. Les Saisons is a beautiful 1840s home packed with charm. The owners are friendly if slightly perpertually behind schedule and the rooms are beautiful and unique. Little ensuite bathrooms have been added to make guests more comfortable but the somewhat disjointed addition doesn’t detract from the creaky beauty of the facilities. Breakfast is a generous offering of fruit, omelette, toast, sausage, blueberry pancakes, coffee and orange juice. The pancakes were delicious but springing for nicer cheese would make a big difference to the quality of the omelette. A little shabby and in need of some sharper management, Les Saisons stands out for its gorgeous structure and great location.


What We Did

I gave my husband carte blanche to choose an activity for us to do on Saturday morning somewhere about two thirds to three quarters of the way to our destination. So this is how, on our road trip to see a musical adaptation of a piece of classic literature, we ended up at a wolf preserve. Though it was disconcerting to see the wolves rush the fences at the promise of food, totally unafraid of humans, Lakota Wolf Preserve seems fairly legit in their care practices, keeping their numbers low so the wolves have lots of room and being fairly strict with visitors about behaviour around the animals. Affordable and accessible, the preserve turned out to be a fun and informative activity and a quirky contrast to our evening plans.


Then, for the main event- The Great Gatsby. I’d always wanted to visit the Paper Mill Playhouse and was thrilled to find large, comfy seats and efficient, friendly staff. The actual show, however, was a bit of a letdown. Goofy and unpretentious Jeremy Jordan is terribly miscast as super suave Gatsby and the score spends a lot of time in the weakest areas of his range (lots of falsetto, very little high belt). Eva Noblezada’s Daisy is lightweight and forgettable, cast into unhelpful shadow by Samantha Pauly’s vivacious Jordan. But the main problem is with the text itself which takes Fitzgerald’s subtext-heavy story about all the things we can’t bear to say and has everyone just say everything out loud the second they get onstage. Only a few lines of the book’s text are used verbatim for framing narration (a huge waste considering the beauty of Fitzgerald’s prose) and the score is brutally formulaic. A pretty big letdown that wastes a ton of potential. A great excuse for a random fanciful road trip, but still a disappointment.


Where We Ate

On our drive, we stumbled upon a whole series of shabby nonsense food options, some of which were a nice surprise and others lived completely up to “is this all that’s around here?!” expectations. First was Silverlake Family Restaurant, which was pretty gross. I was thrilled to get to order potato skins (a delicacy I feel has unfairly disappeared) but my husband ordered something called a Garbage Plate that was exactly that.


On Saturday afternoon, we stumbled upon Blairstown Diner as we made our way from the Wolf Preserve to the Paper Mill. We went in for the same reason we ate where we ate all trip- we were hungry and it was there. To my husband’s delight (and my complete lack of recognition) it turned out to be the diner from the Friday the 13th movie. And boy were they leaning into it. There was Jason stuff everywhere as if the diner was trapped between its original theme of classic 50s-style retro and a new theme of horror movie convention. It was a cute bonus to be able to grab a pretty good burger and milkshake from a place that also had some cultural interest.


Before the theatre, we’d made reservations to have the $60 prix fixe menu at the Carriage House, the restaurant beside the Paper Mill that was partnering with the theatre on a special Gatsby-themed menu. The tab added up really fast with cocktails, add-ons, and that brutal exchange rate, but the quality was fairly decent. Fine soup and meh dessert brought down the average but the oysters Rockefeller (strangely replated into a scallop shell) were delightful and the pork chop was excellent.


Before leaving on Sunday, we got takeout from Tacoria Morristown while visiting friends who live in the area. It was good value and fine if not amazing food.


Obviously, we got Dunkin for the road. I continued my perennial struggle to order exactly the right amount of cream and sugar (it’s always too much or too little) and Phil, unused to American sizing and Dunkin as a phenomenon, ordered some sort of pumpkin spice frappe monstrosity that was bigger than his head.


Finally, as we attempted to drive in one day what we’d originally done in two, we pulled over for a bite at Blue Dolphin Restaurant in Apalachin, NY. The food was iffy but inoffensive and the restaurant itself was pretty rundown but we picked it because it had a giant blue dolphin on the roof so who are we to complain? My one regret is not grabbing something from the enticing dessert case because we needed to get back on the road to finish the long drive home.