“High Fidelity” Offers High Jinks In High Style At New Line

Jeffrey M. Wright rocks it out in New Line Theatre’s production of “High Fidelity.” Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

It’s rare when a theatre repeats itself (except for the Muny) but New Line Theatre thinks enough of the “little musical that could,” “High Fidelity,” that they have brought it back for a second look. Actually, in 2008, Scott Miller resurrected what was then a dead and gone musical that not only failed on Broadway, but failed to get a licensing agent- thus exiling it to musical theatre limbo for a few years. But once he contacted the creative team behind it and convinced them he could make it work, it became a critical hit here in 2008 and is destined for the same in 2012.

Since then, regional, college and community theaters have picked it up and had success with it. As indeed they should- it’s a nifty little show that has a lot of heart and a lot of great music. It’s not for the faint of heart as the dialogue and lyrics are peppered with profanity but it all fits into the story of a young man who owns a record store and is trying to get his relationships back in order- particularly with one young lady.

Jeffrey M. Wright and Kimi Short reprise their roles from the 2008 production as Rob and Laura- the misfiring couple who we know really belong together. So it’s really a coming of age story for them both but for Rob in particular as we meet his “Desert Island All Time Top 5 Breakups” in a number that is truly the essence of this play. As we meet this bevy of beauties that have jilted or been jilted from Rob’s life in the past, we can see why Laura at first appears to be just another in a long, lovely line. But his next failed relationship and her brief go-round with a transcendental (when’s the last time I used that adjective to describe a character?) creep start the road back to each other. Both Wright and Short are wonderful. He powers through this superlative score with a bravado that shows why he’s collected a series of girlfriends. And her sweet innocence shows through the firm resolve to eradicate him from her life.

Terrie Carolan and Mike Dowdy find their way to love as Anna and Dick in New Line Theatre’s “High Fidelity.” Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

The series of characters moving through “High Fidelity” make it work beautifully. Two former non-purchasing customers at Championship Vinyl have become regulars at running the store with Rob and he can’t fire them because, as he says, they don’t demand raises and are always there. Mike Dowdy turns in another wonderful performance as Dick, the shy nerd who eventually meets the girls of his dreams and does everything wrong before finally winning her over. Zachary Allen Farmer is the other zany clerk who keeps insisting he’s got a band and, near the end of the show, he proves that he’s not only right, but belts out a number that nearly stops the show.

Kimi Short leads the way as Laura in “Number 5 With A Bullet” in New Line’s “High Fidelity.” Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

Aaron Allen delights with his hippie, peace-loving character who almost steals Laura away- no, not a chance. Margeau Baue Steinau also shines as the wacky folk-singer that becomes Rob’s next catch until she one-ups him by moving on for Lyle Lovett. These brief encounters precipitate another of the great songs from this score, “I Slept With Someone.” Inhabitants of the record store play a key role in the proceedings as well including Todd Micali who doubles as a drop-dead Bruce Springsteen. Ryan Foizey also gets to show his chops with a super Neil Young impersonation while Nicholas Kelly gets laughs as “Klepto Boy” who is the worst shoplifter you’ve ever seen.

The girls power the show with great looks, great moves and dynamite vocals. Talichia Noah plays Rob’s shortest one-night stand and doubles as Laura’s best friend, Liz, who is instrumental in getting these two star-crossed lovers back on the right track. Terrie Carolan also pulls double duty as a Rob-ex and the nerdy girl who is pursuing our nerdy clerk, Dick. Chrissy Young, the always super Taylor Pietz and Sarah Porter round out our lovely ladies who help Rob “discover” himself along the way through this charismatic musical.

Jeffrey M. Wright as Rob is surrounded by the women in his life in New Line Theatre’s “High Fidelity.” Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg.

As always, Scott Miller’s direction is right on the money. He has found the secret of making this Broadway disappointment into a vehicle for fun and frenzy that you just wish wouldn’t end. Choreographer Robin Michelle Berger keeps the action non-stop utilizing some traditional musical comedy moves with some “hot” moves from the ’90’s. Another stalwart in the New Line family is conductor Justin Smolik. His band just keeps rocking all night long. Scott L. Schoonover’s vibrant set works well with rolling record racks and vinyl and CD’s hanging throughout the “store.” The rest of the tech crew comes through too with a great lighting design by Kenneth Zinkl and appropriate costuming by Amy Kelly.

If you’re ready for flat-out fun, don’t miss this terrific show. It bubbles with personality and just makes you feel good all over. Outstanding performances lead the way and the almost lost score with music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green along with the book by David Lindsay Abaire show that there’s life in any musical as long as it has heart, desire and a little help from Scott Miller. Join the excitement at New Line Theatre’s production of “High Fidelity” running through June 23rd at the Washington University South Campus Theatre (formerly CBC) in Clayton. Call Metrotix at 314-534-1111 or contact the theatre at newlinetheatre.com for tickets or more information.

 

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