High Fidelity is a musical of 2006, a famous Broadway flop (set in Brooklyn). It is based on the novel of 1995, by Nick Hornby (set in London), and the film of 2000, directed by Stephen Frears and starring John Cusack (set in Chicago).
It charts the growth of an emotionally stunted Rob (Toby Francis). He owns a record store for specialised ‘nerds’ having given up his successful DJ-ing gigs. A boy-man that refuses to grow up, surrounded by similarly dim boy/men: Barry (Joe Kosky) and Dick (Dash Kruck), none of them able to commit to any relationship. This show begins with the exit of Rob’s latest ‘failure’, Laura (Teagan Wouters), he, haunted by past women he let go: Anna (Jenni Little), Marie (Erin Clare), Penny (Madison Hegarty) Sarah (Denise Devlin) and Jackie (Bronte Florian). Director Neil Gooding says:
… this is not always pretty. Our leading character is charming (and deceitful), insecure (yet arrogant), apathetic (yet inspirational), loving (yet fickle), complex (yet irritatingly closed), hurt (and hurtful).
The good news is that Toby Francis gives a wonderfully ‘tortured’ central performance and uses the intelligent, witty lyrics by Amanda Green, and the book, by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire, to have us care for Rob and all his excruciating male thick ‘headedness’ through all his irritating behavioural choices. It is a dynamic demand which he fulfills with extraordinary stamina and a keen sense of acting detail.
The music is by Tom Kitt, who wrote Next to Normal, and is of the pop-rock cacophonous kind. I kept hearing the Green Day musical, American Idiot, and now understand why. Mr Kitt was a part of that Broadway hit, too, in his duties as musical supervisor and orchestrator. This production is under the musical control of Andrew Worboys and it is acoustically, ‘crash-bang’ on. Sound designer is Nick Walker.
In this scaled down for the Hayes Theatre production (which is brilliantly served by production designer, Lauren Peters, with a vivid and intelligently alert lighting design by Alex Berlage), Mr Gooding has created an evening with terrific choreography from Cameron Mitchell, who together have created performances from all that have a perceptible aura of truth in the music theatre genre. There is no weak acting link here in this close-up theatre space (this includes Zoe Gertz, Nicholas Christo, Matthew Predny and Alex Jeans). Plus, they are blessed with singing skills that are zinging.
High Fidelity is really well done and that has to do, mainly, with the emphasis placed on the characters and the relationships that drive the story. I had a really good and appreciative time. The music is not to my taste but I enjoyed this show more than I did the Broadway productions of Next to Normal and American Idiot which are composed in the same musical ‘zone’. This production has a humanity as well as ‘noise’.
Company: Highway Run/Neil Gooding Productions/Hayes Theatre
Venue: Hayes Theatre, Greenknowe Ave, Kings Cross, Sydney
Dates: 22 November – 17 December 2017
For more of Kevin Jackson’s theatre reviews, check out his blog at Kevin Jackson’s Theatre Diary
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Green Day’s American Idiot – theatre review
- Cry Baby (Hayes) – theatre review
- In the Heights (Hayes) – theatre review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television