Rising star Jillian Abaya takes audiences on a captivating journey in ‘The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show ‘

Jillian Abaya, the talented Filipino-American actor, is making waves in the off-Broadway show “The Great Gatsby,” an immersive experience where the cast interacts with the audience.

Step into the Jazz Age wonderland of “The Great Gatsby” and get enchanted by the stellar performance of Jillian Anne Abaya. As the talented Filipino-American actor graces the immersive off-Broadway stage, she weaves a spellbinding portrayal of Daisy Buchanan, delighting audiences in every performance.

In a candid interview with the Asian Journal, Jillian takes us on her captivating journey from auditions to the spotlight, revealing the highs and heartwarming connections she experiences each night, and how this unique show has become the most exhilarating experience of her life.

A graduate of NYU Tisch Spring 2022, Jillian was excited to learn about the immersive production coming to the city. Her path to “The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show” started when her agent called her for an audition back in late August.

The Great Gatsby

However, after getting a callback in September and auditioning with her co-stars, Stephanie Rocio and Joel Acosta, who play Jordan Baker and Jay Gatsby respectively, Jillian knew she had to be a part of this production.

The waiting period to hear back from the casting team was emotional for Jillian.

“I felt so strongly towards the production already, and I knew it was something I needed to be a part of,” she admitted. Fortunately, the call finally came, four months after her graduation. Jillian’s excitement turned into reality as she stepped into the world of “The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show.”

Being a part of an immersive show was a thrilling experience for Jillian. The production surpassed her expectations, with grand sets, intricate details, and captivating costumes.

“There was absolutely no way I could imagine what this could be,” she shared, as each night brings unique surprises and challenges, making her dive into improvisation and bounce off the audience’s energy. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in my whole life. I get to talk to the audience and hear their love stories.”

As Daisy Buchanan, Jillian’s character holds a special place in the hearts of the audience. With about 75% of her scenes involving interactions with the audience, Jillian feels a deep connection with the spectators.

“I get to talk to people every single night, and it’s such a gift as an actor and a person,” she said. One particular scene, known as “first loves,” allows her to hear numerous love stories, from the blissful to the heart-wrenching. The trust the audience places in her is touching, as they share personal stories and vulnerabilities with her.

Jillian’s journey to this role began with a callback audition in September, and she was thrilled to be a part of this unique production. As Daisy Buchanan, Jillian’s character engages with the audience, making them feel like her best friends.

Jillian’s Daisy Buchanan is far from the one-dimensional portrayal often seen in the book or movies. “I wanted to avoid the negative language and make Daisy playful, like your best friend who’s trying to hold it together,” she explained. Her Daisy is multifaceted, showing different shades of emotions, from joy to vulnerability.

“The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show” is an immersive experience that offers the audience multiple perspectives of the story. With characters diverging into different rooms, each performance becomes a unique journey for both actors and viewers.

Jillian believes that watching the show from different angles can enhance the overall experience. For those seeking the big picture, sitting in the jazz bar, the main playing space, provides a complete story, according to her. Alternatively, diving into various rooms and perspectives over multiple visits unlocks new layers of the narrative.

In her personal life, Jillian draws inspiration from her multicultural background.

Raised in a household with a Filipino father and a German-Italian mother, she cherishes the support and love they have always provided. Her father, a proud and supportive parent, has seen the show multiple times and beams with pride at his daughter’s achievements.

Jillian’s journey into the world of performing started when she played Dorothy Gale in “The Wizard of Oz” during her sixth grade. The experience was transformative, igniting her passion for storytelling through acting. She knew then that the stage was where she belonged, and with each performance, she brings magic to the audience.

As Jillian Abaya continues to shine as Daisy Buchanan, her talent, dedication, and love for immersive storytelling keep captivating the hearts of audiences who get to experience the show.

Standing (L-R): Mya Rosado-Tran (Charlie McKee), Keivon Akbari (George Wilson), Claire Saunders (Myrtle Wilson), Anika Braganza (Gilda), Joél Acosta (Jay Gatsby), Rob Brinkmann (Nick Carraway), Charlie Marcus (Meyer Wolfsheim), Stephanie Rocío (Jordan Baker). Sitting (L-R): Shahzeb Hussain (Tom Buchanan), Jillian Anne Abaya (Daisy Buchanan), Nicholas Caycedo (Joey), Jeremiah Ginn (Owl Eyes), Stephanie Cha (Kitty Klipspringer), Kiki Burns (Lucille) Photo by Joan Marcus

The Gatsby Mansion

Gatsby Mansion, located within the Park Central Hotel, is New York City’s newest and most enthralling immersive nightspot. Spanning over 16,000 square feet of the hotel’s ballroom space, the venue has undergone a complete renovation to transport visitors back to the extravagant world of the 1920s.

With its private entrance on 55th Street and Seventh Avenue, guests directly enter the mesmerizing realm of Gatsby Mansion, a world filled with red-hot rhythms, bootleg liquor, and jazz-age self-indulgence.

Upon purchasing a ticket to “The Great Gatsby – The Immersive Show,” guests receive an exclusive invitation to one of Jay Gatsby’s legendary parties. The show promises a heart-racing experience, where attendees can dance, gossip, and clink glasses with iconic characters like Nick Carraway, Daisy and Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, and, of course, the enigmatic host, Jay Gatsby himself.

As champagne flows and drama unfolds, attendees are immersed in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale, brought to life in this theatrical adaptation direct from London, after seven years of sold-out performances.

The environment at Gatsby Mansion is meticulously designed to provide an all-encompassing experience, fully transporting guests back to the roaring 1920s. As they enter, they are transported to a world of opulence and luxury.

Attendees have the unique chance to meet Mr. Gatsby himself in his exclusive bar or follow him and other guests into smaller rooms and spaces. Interaction is encouraged but entirely at the discretion of each guest, allowing them to participate as much or as little as they desire.

While a 1920s dress code is encouraged, it is not compulsory, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable in the experience. The goal is to create an authentic atmosphere that reflects the era’s glamour and allure. Gatsby Mansion aims to be an unforgettable nightspot, where guests can escape the present and step into the past.

The show has already garnered international acclaim, with productions across three continents, including the UK, Ireland, South Korea, and Belgium (in three different languages).

As the hottest ticket in town, Gatsby Mansion promises to be a hotspot for those seeking an immersive journey into the dazzling world of the 1920s.

For those eager to experience the magic of “The Great Gatsby,” Jillian Abaya’s performance is not to be missed. As she brings Daisy Buchanan to life on the off-Broadway stage, audiences are treated to an immersive and enthralling experience that transports them to the dazzling world of the 1920s.

This talented Filipino-American actor has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with, and her journey in “The Great Gatsby” is only the beginning of what promises to be a remarkable career in the world of theater. n


Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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