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Paulanne Simmons

"High Fidelity" Scores High


Will Chase, surrounded by (l-r) Kirsten Wyatt, Anne Warren, Emily Swallow, Caren Lyn Manuel and Rachel Stern. Photo by Joan Marcus

"High Fidelity"
Directed by Walter Bobbie
Imperial Theatre
249 West 45th St.
Opened Dec. 7, 2006
Tues. thru Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 2 & 7 p.m.
$111.25-$41.25, Telecharge (212) 239-6200 or www.telecharge.com
Paulanne Simmons Dec. 3, 2006

In a Broadway season that's offering more than the usual number of revivals of varying quality, "High Fidelity" may be the big winner and the musical to see this year. The reasons are many: the music, the lyrics, the direction, the acting. You name it.

I am not a person in favor of artists and performers riding to fame on the coattails of their parents. But Amanda Green's lyrics for "High Fidelity" prove that she would be a major talent even if her parents were not lyricist Adolph Green and actress Phyllis Newman.

"High Fidelity," however, has a lot more than great lyrics (consider lines like "you paved the way for romance when you kept him out of your pants"). It also has a book by David Lindsay-Abaire (Tony-nominated "Rabbit Hole," "Fuddy Meers") and direction by Tony, Drama Desk and OCC award-winner Walter Bobbie, which enhances rather than conflates or deflates the story.

Tom Kitt is making his Broadway debut as a composer. His rock-infused score, with its bow to new-age, soul, alt-rock and more will certainly put him on the map.

(l-r) Jay Klaitz , Will Chase and Christian Anderson. Photo by Joan Marcus

Based on the Nick Hornby best-seller (made into a 2000 movie staring John Cusack and Jack Black), "High Fidelity" follows the trials and tribulations of 30-ish Rob (Will Chase), the romantically challenged owner of "Championship Vinyl," the last record store in the world, an enterprise with "zero growth potential."

Bob has just broken up with his girlfriend Laura (Jenn Colella), a corporate lawyer. The reasons are not immediately revealed, but they've got something to do with a play on the word "fidelity." Laura tries to get over Bob by telling her troubles to her friend Liz (the wonderful Rachel Stern) and moving in with a new-age guru named Ian (Jeb Brown). Bob tries to get over Laura by looking back at his five top break-ups (the girls all reappear onstage in eccentric splendor) and sleeping with a girl who slept with Lyle Lovett.

The store is frequented by fanatics and losers (one, in particular, is named T.M.P.M.I.T.W. or The Most Pathetic Man in the World) and a few temps who worked at the store and then never left. Championship Vinyl's two principal employees are the timid, long-haired Dick (Christian Anderson), who is having his own problems finding love (his funny and sad ballade is one of the show's highlights) and the loud-mouthed Barry (the robust Jay Klaitz), who dreams of forming a band that Rob will launch at the store.

At various points in the musical, Bob reveals his inner conflicts by addressing the audience. This gives "High Fidelity" a confessional quality and moments of reflection that can be extremely funny and work very well with the full-bodied rock score. Chase is especially likable and authentic in lines such as "did I listen to pop music because I was miserable or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"

"High Fidelity" is filled with references to pop culture, many of which may go over the heads of those who will never see thirty again. But the music and the energy onstage carry the show along even for those who may be left wondering exactly who is Lyle Lovett.

Although Lindsay-Abaire takes a bit too long developing the plot, and one wishes he'd been able to figure out his sub-plots sooner, once "High Fidelity" gets into gear, it never stops. This is a show meant for the young and everyone who remembers what it was like to be young.


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