High Fidelity the musical has big shoes to fill. An adaptation of the acclaimed Nick Hornby novel, itself transformed into the much-loved turn of the millennium flick about perennially self-absorbed list-maker and record store owner Rob Gordon, the story and film remain a popular favourite and one of this author’s and many more fan’s top five film adaptations.
Now that Sydney’s ever-reliable Hayes Theatre Company has adapted the Broadway feat, a list of the production’s top five takeaways seems appropriate.
Number one – the staging. As always, Hayes has excelled in recreating the lavish abundancies of theatres that hold a lot more than 100-something people in its significantly more confined space. Replete with rows of records instantly indicative of Gordon’s ‘Championship Vinyl’ and still seamlessly able to transport us to Rob’s bedroom and elsewhere, the neon lights adorning the fixtures are but one of the touches that instantly draws us in to this stunning little world.
Number two – the ensemble. Talented performers being a staple of the company, Teagan Wouters as Rob’s ex-girlfriend Laura is a stand-out, as are the more comedically-focused record shop duo Barry (Joe Kosky) and Dick (Dash Kruck). Going some way to achieving the memorable but by no means mimical version of the dynamic so well rendered by their screen counterparts, the love of their characters for the music they slave over is evident. Kruck’s duet and interplay with Jenni Little’s Anna runs the gamut from wince-worthy to heart-warming.
Toby Francis similarly evinces the various states of Rob in a compelling and all around emphatic manner, even if the heightened levels of the earlier numbers and music overwhelm some of his ongoing commentary.
Number three – the beat. Nostalgia has its day in this production, the troupe being most at home reliving the classic rock stylings which are among the favourites of store stalwarts Rob, Dick and Barry. The production is less convincing when channelling a whole other host of genres in a series of standalone gags and numbers.
The none too traditionally sociable figure of Gordon himself being suited to the musical’s heavier lyricism, the musical format, as enjoyable as it is, struggles to gel with the saturnine story and personage who takes better to tempestuous Clash musings than finding out whatever it is his girlfriend of four years actually likes to listen to.
Number four – Ian. Every comedy-drama (no matter how light) needs a villain, and a reprieve. Being the bad guy and the comedic relief all at once isn’t easy, but the job fell delightfully to Nicholas Christo as Ian, heralding some of the most cringeworthy and laugh out loud moments in the frequently funny show. ‘Ian’s here’ being a particular highlight, Christo, and as a result the audience, was clearly having no end of fun.
Number five – with a bullet. The stand-out tune of the show, ‘Number 5 with a Bullet’ is an out of your seats, full-throttle stunner, helmed by Wouters and Rob’s ‘Top 5 Break-Ups.’ ‘She Goes,’ with the same ensemble yet heralded by Rob’s friend Liz (Zoe Gertz) comes a close second, while also making practised use of the small stage. With a heft of great numbers, High Fidelity is yet another excellent package from the high achieving company.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Hayes Theatre, Potts Point NSW
18 November – 17 December 2017