High Fidelity is based on British author Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel and the 2000 Stephen Frears film adaptation, which starred John Cusack and became a cult classic. It arrived on stage in 2006, with a book by David Lindsay-Abaire, lyrics by Amanda Green and music by Tom Kitt.
While the Broadway production closed after only 18 previews and 13 regular performances, the musical has lived on for more than a decade, spawning productions around the world. Last week, High Fidelity opened at Sydney’s Hayes Theatre co-produced by Highway Run Productions and Neil Gooding Productions, with Neil Gooding also taking on directorial duties.
High Fidelity is the story of thirty-something Brooklyn record store owner, Rob (Toby Francis). He and his two employees, Dick (Dash Kruck) and Barry (Joe Kosky), live lives focused on (in fact, totally dominated by) their love of rock music and, more specifically, music on vinyl aficionados. Each character is a fairly simple man, uncomplicated, and possessing a myopic view of the world.
Just as Cusack spoke directly to camera in the film, Rob breaks the fourth wall on stage as our narrator. We quickly learn he’s just been dumped by girlfriend, Laura (Teagan Wouters), an experience that has prompted soul-searching, beginning with a reflection on his numerous failed relationships with women. It becomes a turning point in Rob’s life; he begins to recognise his poor past behaviour, selfish attitudes, and the crucial role he has played in the disintegration of each relationship.
While Rob’s development and maturing across the course of the show is satisfying, it’s a narrative that’s a little thin and one that feels stretched beyond reasonable limits at two-and-a-half hours (including interval). With Rob the only modestly fleshed-out player, it’s a book that doesn’t do much to help us invest in these characters, given we’re only afforded fleeting insights into their lives.
That said, Gooding and his cast have done great work to make this production of High Fidelity as entertaining and as impactful an experience as it can be. As Rob, Francis is first class; he’s entirely believable and his tremendous rock tenor handles Green’s and Kitt’s score with ease. As Rob’s intelligent and sympathetic ex-girlfriend, Wouters is impressive, doing all she can to make Laura multi-dimensional. Vocally, she’s always on point here. Kruck is convincing as the terribly shy and acutely self-conscious store employee, Dick, while Kosky delivers as the brusque and brash Barry.
Elsewhere, Christo gets some of the best comedic moments as spiritual but slimy hippy Ian, Laura’s ‘sort-of’ diversion after breaking up with Rob; Erin Clare has a moment to showcase her stunning vocal prowess performing ‘Terrible Things’ as singer and Rob’s momentary love interest, Marie; and Zoe Gertz is wonderful as Liz, the feisty friend of Laura and Rob uncomfortably caught in the middle. Hers is a performance that leaves you wanting to see the more of the character.
Lauren Peters has created a terrific set that looks remarkably authentic and makes the small stage feel ike a grungy record shop that probably never saw better days (and Gooding makes wise use of the entire space). Similarly, Peters’ costuming choices are character appropriate. Additionally, leading a very tight band, musical director Andrew Worboys ensures there’s the necessary vitality in the live reproduction of Kitt’s catchy tracks.
High Fidelity won’t move or provoke much afterthought in the way in which some musicals have done in 2017 at the Hayes Theatre. But ultimately, it’s a showcase of excellent performing and creative talent working together to make this musical all it can be and affording audiences an entertaining night out.
HIGH FIDELITY – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: Hayes Theatre Co, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point
Season: Playing now until 17 December
Times: Tue-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm
Prices: Tue-Thu & Sun $64 Adult, $59 Concession
Bookings: hayestheatre.com.au | (02) 8065 7337