BWW Reviews: New Line Theatre's Superb Revival of HIGH FIDELITY

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When I reviewed New Line Theatre's production of High Fidelity in 2008, I decided to start off in the spirit of Nick Hornby by giving my readers the top five reasons they should see this wonderful musical. Well, here are the Top Five reasons you should see High Fidelity, either for the very first time, or again, in 2012 (in reverse order, naturally). Number Five: because the cast members that remain the same are still superb in their roles, and the new additions make it even more entertaining. Number Four: because the music of Tom Kitt and the lyrics of Amanda Green are pure ear candy that cribs cool bits from classic rock and soul. Number Three: because this time it's in a different venue that allows for a grander scenic design, as well as a larger area for the fun choreography. Number Two: because seeing the musical still beats sitting through the movie, which didn't really capture Hornby's novel completely. And the Number One reason to see this revival production of High Fidelity: IT ABSOLUTELY ROCKS!

High Fidelity is all about the growth and maturation of each of its characters, in one way or another. Rob Gordon, who owns a struggling record store (remember vinyl?), has reached a point where he needs to take ownership of his life and of the deeds he's committed. As the play opens, his girlfriend Laura, is leaving him. We're finally privy to the reason by the end of the first act, and it definitely affects how we as an audience feel about him. However, there is a sliver of hope for Rob, even though he falls prey to a one-night stand with a singer who slept with someone famous. And, he also winds up stalking Laura by calling her repeatedly, and by hanging around her new boyfriend's place. Rob's employees also change for the better, as Dick and Barry rise above their loser status and actually impress us with their individual metamorphoses.

Jeffrey Wright is, once again, very strong as Rob, the owner of Championship Vinyl, and though his character may be a bit of a jerk, Wright makes him a charming one. Kimi Short also returns as his love interest, Laura, and together they share a nice chemistry. Zachary Allen Farmer's work as the acid-tongued Barry, is a riot, and he's always up to something on stage. Mike Dowdy is Dick, perfectly capturing this unsure virgin, who falls in love with one of the customers, despite the fact that she buys him a John Tesh CD as a gift.

An equally impressive supporting cast includes: Aaron Allen as Ian, a new age interventionist, Talichia Noah as Liz, the sassy matchmaker who was responsible for bringing Rob and Laura together to begin with, Margeau Baue Steinau as Marie LaSalle, the aforementioned one night stand that Rob has, Todd Micali as both, TMPMITW (the most pathetic man in the world) and Bruce Springsteen, Terrie Carolan as Dick's girlfriend, and some great backups and harmonies by the like of Taylor Pietz, Sarah Porter, Nicholas Kelly, Ryan Foizey, Keith Thompson, and Chrissy Young.

My personal Top Five songs from the show include: “The Last Real Record Store on Earth”, “Desert Island All-Time Top 5 Breakups”, “I Slept with Someone (Who Slept with Lyle Lovett), “9% Chance of Your Love” and the closer, “Turn the World Off”, which is a cool mash-up of Al Green's classic, “Let's Get it On” and Gladys Knight's “Midnight Train to Georgia”.

Scott Miller's direction of this revival is superb, with his familiarity allowing for even more funny business from these various characters to pay attention to. Scott Miller has done an excellent job staging and pacing this production. He's aided by the exceptional work of pianist/conducter Justin Smolik, and the rest of the band that includes: D. Mike Bauer on lead guitar, Aaron Doer on rhythm guitar, Dave Hall on Bass, Clancy Newell on percussion, and Jeffrey VanDiver on additional keyboards. Robin Michelle Berger's choreography gets a much larger space to thrive, and Kenneth Zinkl does a nice job lighting the festivities. Scott Schoonover's scenic design makes great use of record sleeves, record covers, CDs and 45's (ask your parents if you don't know what those are). Amy Kelly's costumes are good character fits as well.

You were born to boogie, so get out and see this great production of High Fidelity by New Line Theatre at the Washington University South Campus Theatre. It runs until June 23, 2012, so get your tickets now!

PHOTO CREDIT: Jill Ritter

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Chris Gibson Chris has been active in the local theatre scene for over 30 years. In addition to his acting work, he's also contributed as a director, writer and composer. Though, initially a film buff, he grew tired of the sanitized, PG-13 rated blockbusters that were being continually shoved down his throat by the studios. An opportunity to review theatre in St. Louis has grown exponentially with the sudden explosion of venues and talent in the region. He now finds himself obsessed with witnessing those precious, electric moments that can only happen live, on stage.


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