Musical adaptation of Nick Hornby classic skips a few beats
HIGH FIDELITY by Tom Kitt, Amanda Green and David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Mark Selby (Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle). Runs to January 30. $10-$25. 416-978-8849. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
At the root of this musical theatre adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 1995 book (and Stephen Frears’s 2000 cult hit rom-com) about the love life of a struggling music store owner is a serious overarching problem.[rssbreak]
You see, the story revolves around the lives of three 90s-era Brooklyn record store snobs – you know, the kind of anti-corporate rockers who would rather die than listen to Michael Bolton or John Tesh. However, the show’s original music and choreography are deeply rooted in music-theatre’s pop traditions. So when one of the dour, too-cool-for-school clerks berates a customer for asking for Celine Dion and then launches into song and dance, there’s some jarring cognitive dissonance.
This disconnect is also evident in Brandon Kleiman’s set design, which for the most part does a good job of recreating the grimy interior of a struggling indie music shop with stacks of vinyl and dilapidated shelving. But his decision to prominently feature posters of AC/DC and the Beatles, two of the biggest-selling rock bands of all time, seems wrong for diehard characters who support independent efforts and disdain anything “mass market.”
This signals an inherent credibility problem: the show doesn’t seem to really understand its own characters.
That said, director Mark Selby offers up some enjoyable comic moments. A collection of violent fantasies enacted by store owner Rob (David Light) on his yuppie New Ager romantic rival, Ian (Jason Zinger) – each followed by a “rewind” effect – are perfectly executed by the ensemble and very funny.
Also effective are scenes where Rob daydreams about getting advice (and a song) from Neil Young and then Bruce Springsteen (both played spot-on by Evan Dowling).
It’s too bad that Light’s performance is uneven and less enjoyable than Zinger’s hilarious douchebag antagonist.