Book by David Lindsay-Abaire. Music by Tom Kitt. Lyrics by Amanda Green. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby and the Touchstone Pictures film. Directed by Nathan Patrech and Sarah Hull. Phoenix Players. ANU Arts Centre. Until February 21. Website: phoenix.contact.com.au.
Fans of Nick Hornby's novel about record store owner Rob or the film adaptation with John Cusack will have a great time at the Phoenix Players production of the musical version. Anyone who has struggled through the pain of a breakup, battled to survive in a business or faced life's everyday challenges will identify with Rob's (Zach Raffan) predicament as he seeks to win back his girlfriend Laura (Josie Dunham) and save his store from collapse.
The musical is narrated by Rob, who involves us in his dilemma and seeks our understanding. Amanda Green's lyrics serve to continue the narrative, punctuated by Tom Kitt's music that swings from rock to pop to country and western. High Fidelity is neither epic fantasy nor glittering spectacle. It is about real people living coping with the eternal struggles of heart, mind and hip pocket. You most likely won't leave the theatre humming the tunes but you will leave with the satisfaction of being engaged and entertained by a musical that many of us can identify with.
The ANU Arts Centre challenges the novice. High Fidelity is more suited to an intimate space. On opening night, the production challenges were evident in the late start, the patchy lighting and awkward scene changes and occasional excessive sounds of the band that overshadowed the miked singers. These are all production problems, easily ironed out as the season progresses. To the credit of the directors, the musical director, Jenny Tabur and the choreographer, Jordan Kelly, a powerhouse cast acts, sings and dances with energy and gusto from the opening company number, Last Real Record Store to the finale Turn the World Off (And Turn You On).
Audiences familiar with the story will recognize the inhabitants of the Championship Vinyl Store. Raffan is perfectly pitched and completely engaging as Rob; Max Gambale is an imposing and larger than life Barry; introverted Dick is played by an appealing Will Huang and Tim Stiles is thoroughly convincing as The Most Pathetic Man In The World. Josie Dunham, as Laura, and Amy Dunham as her sister, Liz. brilliantly capture the woman's perspective in the troubled relationship. David Cannell offers a comedic tour de force as enlightened yoga guru, Ian. Emily Ridge plays Dick's shy love interest, Anna, with heart-warming appeal. There are excellent cameo performances from Miriam Miley-Read as pop Siren Maria Lasalle and Sean Ladlow's charismatic Bruce Springsteen and there is tightly choreographed support from Rob's top past five girlfriends.
A High Fidelity cast delivers a high-fidelity show for all those who are young enough to be living through the angst and those who are old enough to remember.