(AK) First it was a novel by Nick Hornby, then a much-loved cult film by Stephen Frears. Now, High Fidelity rocks its way onto the Hayes Theatre stage, thanks to Highway Run Productions and Neil Gooding Productions. And while some of the charm, charisma and nuance has been lost in translation, this show still manages to whack a smile on the face.

(LBJ) I loved the movie and I love a great rock musical, I agree there were some issue with charisma and while I walked out of the theatre content in many ways, for me there was something missing here and it wasn’t limited to the performers or the direction.

(AK) Rob owns a record store. He is self-absorbed, narcissistic, egotistical…every iteration of those words you can think of. And he can’t understand why he keeps getting dumped. Laura is (was) his long-suffering girlfriend, ready for more and realising Rob isn’t it.

It’s a modern coming of age story, where Rob learns to grow up, realises what he’s doing wrong, and finds ways to fix everything.  

The problem with this production is…that we don’t really care too much for our lead character. Sure, Rob is meant to be a little roguish and dislikable because of his nonchalant attitudes. But I think the problem here lies with an actor just falling short of the charisma the role needs.

Toby Francis has a great rock tenor voice, and can certainly sing the part without question. He just doesn’t seem to quite have a handle on the charm that makes Rob so endearing. Nor is he comically self-loathing and cynical like John Cusack’s Rob in the film. Francis floats somewhere in between, and we’re unable to locate our empathy for him.

[LBJ] I have to agree here on the issues but I blame the musical book more than actor and director although there is some blame there as well.  The original novel and movie created characters that were so self absorbed with an obsession with music that was so elitist, it relied on the self-depreciating/loathing tone of Rob’s narration to allow us to care. Part of the joy of the story was showing the dichotomy of a bunch of nerdy, music obsessives with elitist attitudes. Unfortunately this musical strips away so much of the extremity of the characters personalities, that they become fairly normal guys. Even the never ending obsession with Top-5 lists became sentimental and cute. Not only does this ‘bland-out’ the story but it left us with a guy who doesn’t seem perturbed that his girlfriend left him because he cheated on her and when he finally realises that he loves her he delivers a matter-of-fact line to the audience about the response to this realisation being that he slept with another woman. All this just makes the character unsympathetic or worse self congratulatory. 

[AK] Teagan Wouters as Laura hits all the right notes, with a fantastic voice and a softness in vulnerable moments. Joe Krosky is hilariously brazen as Barry, wearing metal band t-shirts but with a secret love of crooning. Dash Kruck pulls on the heartstrings as quivering Dick, but displays some impressive pipes. Zoe Gertz is the sass queen as Liz, with a spectacular voice and one epic on stage quick change.

[LBJ] I agree, Teagan Wouters was fantastic. She held a wonderful warmth and she worked very hard to create an all-round character that nearly pulled off the ending. Joe Krosky worked hard to create a character that was not a Jack Black impersonation. Dash Kruck stole the show, masterfully manipulating the audience with his cute-as-a-button Dick. I quite liked the Springsteen-inspired song but there was a lurking feeling that the songs being sung here, even if I was enjoying them, would never ever make it to one of their Top-5 lists.

[AK] The music is played by a literal garage band (a roller door is lifted to reveal the band inside in the opening number) with Musical Director Andrew Worboys at the helm. The musicians are incredibly tight and exuberant, and keep the pace throughout.

[LBJ] Yep, the band were fantastic. The ‘garage band’ reveal was inspired. 

[AK] Technically, there were a couple of mic issues on opening night, but nothing too distracting. Set design by Lauren Peters is charming, particularly Rob’s record store. Neil Gooding’s direction in the limited space is strong, and choreography by Cameron Mitchell is well-executed.

[LBJ] Overall I had an enjoyable night, but there was this lurking feeling that the show did not represent the original material as well as it could and that Laura had made all the concessions by the end of the show. It might not be a Top-5, but it was fun.

[AK] Sure, the comedy is cliché and predictable, the characters might be a little bland and we don’t really like the way it ends. But High Fidelity will prove an enjoyable night out to many ( just perhaps not those avid lovers of the film).  

Photo by Robert Catto @robertcatto on Instagram & Twitter and @robertcattophotographer on Facebook.

Alana Kaye & Lynden Jones – Theatre Now/On The Town

High Fidelity

Lyrics by Amanda Green
Music by Tom Kitt
Book by David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on the Novel by Nick Hornby and the Touchstone Pictures Film

!Book Tickets

11 Nov – 17 Dec 2017

Tue – Say 7:30pm / Sat 2pm matinee / Sunday 3pm matinee

Venue: Hayes Theatre
Theatre Company: Neil Gooding Productions and Highway Run Productions, in association with Hayes Theatre Co

Duration: Approximately 2 hours and 30 mins