High Fidelity (2008)

the American Regional Premiere
Music by Tom Kitt Lyrics by Amanda Green
Book by David Linsday-Abaire
based on the novel by Nick Horbny
June 12-July 5, 2008
A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, St. Louis

Rob – Jeffrey M. Wright
Laura – Kimi Short
Dick – Aaron Lawson
Barry – Zachary Allen Farmer
Liz/Jackie – Nikki Glenn
Ian – Robb Kennedy
Anna/Alison – Katie Nestor
Marie LaSalle – Margeau Baue Steinau
TMPMITW/Bruce Springsteen – Todd Micali
Futon Guy/Skid – Patrick Donnigan
Klepto-Boy – Joel Hackbarth
Hipster/Neil Young/Skid – Andrew T. Hampton
Charlie – Mary C. Crouch
Penny – Amanda Densmore
Sarah – Lori White

Director – Scott Miller
Choreographer – Robin Michelle Berger
Stage Manager – Trisha Bakula
Lighting Designer – Michael Bergfeld
Set Designer – David Carr
Costume Designer – Amy Kelly
Sound Designer – Steve Massey
Props Master – Vicki Herrmann
Set Construction – John and Suzanne Carr
Lighting Technician – Trisha Bakula
House Manager – Ann Stinebaker
Box Office Manager – Vicki Herrmann
Graphic Designer – Matt Reedy
Photographer – Michael C. Daft

Piano/Conductor – Chris Petersen
Bass – Dave Hall
Lead Guitar – Mike Renard
Percussion – Mike Schurk
Rhythm Guitar – Jim Shiels
Keyboard – Marc Strathman

“In the spirit of author Nick Hornby, I’m presenting the top five reasons you should go see New Line Theatre’s production of the musical High Fidelity, in reverse order. Number five, because it features catchy songs from composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Amanda Green. Number four, because David Lindsay-Abaire’s script captures the novel’s flavor better than the film adaptation did. Number three, because this is the midwest premiere, and you’ll want to see this in it’s purest form before it gets de-fanged for mass consumption. Number two, because it features a terrific cast, and a crack band. And number one, because New Line has put together an incredibly entertaining show that deserves your attendance.” – Chris Gibson, KDHX-FM

“A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5. Sweet and charming while also faithful to its raw rock roots, New Line’s rendition of High Fidelity soars on the energy of its solid music and consistent comedy. Highlights abound throughout, from the entertaining and pulsating opening number, “The Last Real Record Store on Earth,” to the poignant ballad, “Laura, Laura”. . . New Line’s High Fidelity can be cherished as fondly as Rob’s coveted collection of old 45s. What a rewarding sound it is.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“The stars are in perfect alignment for the regional premiere of Tom Kitt and Amanda Green’s musical, based on the novel by Nick Hornby. Director Scott Miller has put together a fine cast of actors and singers (in an interesting new venue), to stage the lives of young men in a used record shop, and the women who love them. Individually, and in delightful groups, they blaze through a series of power ballads, make-up songs, break-up songs and more, covering musical idioms from the soulful sixties to the acrid eighties. . . Critics of the recent movie and the subsequent Broadway musical seemed to seize upon the mere quirkiness of these slacker-esthetes, adrift in a sea of post-adolescent angst, as the main thrust of the evening. But the intimate confines of the Hotchner studio theater at Washington University serve them well, helping us focus on small tragedies and moderate evils, raising them to a grander scale. A bigger stage, or a more dazzling theater would merely wage war on an intimate story like this. Instead, in these pleasant, bare-bones surroundings, High Fidelity finds a perfect setting.” – Richard Green, TalkinBroadway.com

“New Line’s version is brimming with joy, the lyrics are sharp and funny, and the music is riddled with in-jokes and references to the actual pop songs that substitute for Rob’s emotional life. It’s a very, very good show. . . New Line Theatre brings the show to a college campus black-box theatre, an ideal reflection of the show’s youthful feel and self-absorbed hero. The tough little coming of age story is now allowed to shine, and it’s very bright indeed. . . The music is sharp and clever, and the New Line Band performs it all quite rockingly. . . The tough little coming of age story is now allowed to shine, and it’s very bright indeed.” – Paul Friswold, The Riverfront Times

BEST SHOW of 2008: “Based on a novel by Nick Hornby, this stylish musical didn’t last long on Broadway, but its first incarnation beyond the Great White Way was a smashing success under the inspired direction of Scott Miller. Superbly capturing the essence of Hornby’s characters, led by music-store-clerk-turned-owner Rob, the energy and passion of Miller’s cast was infectious and immensely appealing. Jeffrey Wright showed us Rob’s vulnerability and sweetness beyond the rock ‘n’ roll sass, and his easy-going musical style delightfully conveyed the show’s triumphant spirit.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News “Theater Year in Review”

High Fidelity started out as a delightful novel by Nick Hornby, then turned into a cute movie starring John Cusack. But it’s not an obvious candidate for the musical stage. That’s because when we think of musicals, we tend to think of flashy extravaganzas. New Line Theatre, however, specializes in small, smart shows instead. Maybe that’s why its production of High Fidelity pays off: The whole thing is built to scale. . . High Fidelity makes for appealing entertainment.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

High Fidelity is not a love story. It’s not about two people finding happiness. It’s about one guy growing up.

But it’s also about experiencing music autobiographically, about using music to connect to others, about the way it makes your personal pain somehow transcendent. What better form in which to tell that story than a rock musical? And what better way to construct that score than in the musical vocabulary and language of these guys’ lives? This is an original score that delivers dramatically but is also peppered with musical references to some of the great rock and pop artists of our time, the muscular American sound of Bruce Springsteen, the raw rage of Guns N' Roses, the intellectual playfulness of Talking Heads, the fierce defiance of Aretha Franklin, the smoky groove of Percy Sledge, the driving cynicism of Billy Joel, the naked emotion of Ben Folds. This is a show that uses music as carefully and artfully as it uses dialogue to tell its story, comically, emotionally, often ironically.

But New York wasn’t kind to High Fidelity. Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times, “The seeming credo of this production at the Imperial Theater can be found early in its lyrics: ‘Nothin’s great, and nothin’s new, but nothin’ has its worth.’ This declaration is sung by the show’s hero, the romantically bereft Rob, as he describes his uneventful life as the owner of a vinyl record store in Brooklyn. . . And that’s a problem.”

No, the real problem is that Brantley couldn’t see that this lyric reveals the complex central conflict of the story, an entirely interior conflict. It’s not that Rob’s life is uneventful; it’s that his life is too self-involved, too stagnant, and lacking in the joy that comes from a giving, two-way, adult relationship. The “nothing” refers on the surface to Rob’s outer life, but even more to his inner life. He is emotionally empty, running on the fumes of a once satisfying (though arguably immature) relationship. The “nothing” that his and Laura’s relationship has become has the comforts of familiarity and minimal effort, but it can’t sustain them. Rob doesn’t have enough self-knowledge initially to assess his own problem, so we have to read between the lines, as we do routinely with the best plays and movies. Why should that be too much for a musical to ask of its audience – or of its critics?

That High Fidelity’s opening number ends with all the guys singing “I wouldn’t change a thing” tells us exactly what this show is about: the stagnation of a generation. And could there be a more powerful or clearer metaphor than a guy surrounded by used LPs? Rob’s story is the story of millions of people on the cusp between the Baby Boomers and Generation X, caught among powerful cultural forces, the expectations of previous generations, and world-shaking changes in technology. This is not a show about nothing. It’s a complex story about some very complicated people, and we think that’s something worth sharing.

We hope you agree.

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