High Fidelity hits a sad low with musical

by Beacon Staff • October 11, 2006

Fans may hope for music that draws from Elvis Costello, dialogue borrowed from its namesakes and an aesthetic attempting to take the usual spectacle of Broadway musicals and convert it into something the characters would actually approve of.,Don't go into High Fidelity: The Musical expecting to see a carboncopy of Nick Hornby's 1995 book or the 2000 film adaptation.

Fans may hope for music that draws from Elvis Costello, dialogue borrowed from its namesakes and an aesthetic attempting to take the usual spectacle of Broadway musicals and convert it into something the characters would actually approve of.

Unfortunately, these expectations turn out to be far too high.

From the very start of the overture, it is clear that the music has no trace of Costello, although there is a song featuring a Born in the USA-era Bruce Springsteen look-a-like and an eerie gangster rap session featuring the employees of Championship Vinyl.

High Fidelity: The Musical's main problem seems to be its gigantic shift in intent from Nick Hornby's original aim.

While Hornby wrote a book rife with obscure references, witty banter and mix-tape jokes, the musical version falls victim to current Broadway trends. It is far more concerned with making middle-aged couples snap their fingers than staying true to Hornby's vision.

Captain Beefheart references become Bob Dylan references, Jack Black dancing to Katrina and the Waves is replaced by Rob and Springsteen doing the Charleston on a coffee table and jokes about the musically non-enlightened are watered down to lame one-liners about Scientologists.

Will Chase plays Rob as a happy, dancing sort of chap, not unlike Donny Osmond with more relationship issues and less Mormonism.

Jenn Colella is barely memorable as Laura and while Jay Klaitz may resemble Jack Black's Barry physically, his character's banality is only interrupted when he utters one of the only laughable lines of the show: "Check out the rack on that dwarf!"

Instead of copying the Liz character from the film, Katy Mixon takes another route and instead of channeling Joan Cusack, she seems to channel an actress in another fine film: Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.

The result is a definite crowdpleaser of a song, but one completely lacking in substance. Mixon's Fran Drescher accent and Whoopi Goldberg style are a lethal combination.

There is one prize in the stale Cracker Jack box of High Fidelity cast members, and that is Christian Anderson's Dick. Even though he partakes in the choreographed dancing as well, he manages to maintain an air of melancholy and social ineptitude essential to his persona.

The stage version actually gives Dick a side of humanity missing from both the book and film, and as hard as it is to admit, his romance with Anna is worthy of all of the "awwwws" it elicits from the audience.

The only other time to utter any "awwwws," would be for technical reasons rather than anything acting, directing or music related.

The set, designed by Anna Louzos, seamlessly changes from LP laden apartment to record store and back again, and perfectly fits the setting one would imagine Rob existing in.

The gritty New York backdrop provided some of the only harshness fans would be anxious to see in the show.

Ken Billington's colorful lighting meshes extremely well with the set and costumes.

Theresa Squire gives most of the cast costumes fitting Hornby's descriptions of their personalities, especially Dick's awkward, elbow-patched sweater in the second act.

In the end, however, the songs are instantly forgettable.

The opening line of High Fidelity (the film) asks, "What came first, the music or the misery?"

In this case, the music(al) caused the misery.

You'll feel better after going home and making a tape chronicling your Top Five Songs to Listen To After Having Seen a Disappointing Adaptation of a Good Book/Film.