At Medium Volume

5 Oct

Three days after seeing High Fidelity and I’m still not sure what to make of the show.

My toes were tapping during many of the songs, and I had some good laughs, but overall, I just felt something was missing.

A spark.

A certain je ne sais quoi.

I don’t know exactly what.

Maybe it’s my chronic problem that I never seem to like seeing shows in Boston; they just don’t feel right if they’re not on Broadway. Or maybe I just had too high expectations.

Either way, High Fidelity felt like it was a bit lacking.

So what did I like about it?

The music’s good, and I don’t just say that because I know Tom Kitt, the guy who wrote it (we went to high school together).

The songs are generally witty (thanks to lyricist Amanda Green), tuneful, and ones you could actually listen to out of context on your iPod. It’s refreshing.

With a couple of exceptions, these are not your typical Broadway showtunes.

Particularly memorable were the opener (“I Wouldn’t Change a Thing”), “It’s No Problem,” “I’ve Got a 9 Percent Chance,” and the song that opens Act 2, which I could name but then it would ruin a good joke. (I’d mention others by name, but none of the songs were listed in the program — on purpose, I’m told.)

Will Chase, the actor who plays the lead, is very good; his Rob is a different character than the one John Cusack played in the movie, so you’re not tempted to make any comparison.

The show feels current, hip, and modern, with “real” dialogue, a cool and colorful record store set, and references to actual artists and contemporary topics.

Finally, High Fidelity has a little more attitude than you might expect from a show, and that starts at the pre-show announcements (i.e.: turn off your cell phone, etc.), includes frequent cursing and usage of the f-word, and demonstrates itself in the varied musical styles, which include Pat Benatar–style rock and “adult contemporary” pop-rock.

And what didn’t I like?

Well, Jenn Colella is hot (especially in her song “Number 5 with a Bullet”), but her character and performance are generally lukewarm (if not a little cold). I just didn’t see what Rob saw in Laura, and if we’re to sympathize with him, we need to like her too.

The show is also strangely undercast. Nine of the 12 cast members play two roles, and one guy even plays a woman for no apparent reason. There’s a scene that supposedly takes place in a crowded club, and with barely anyone on stage, it’s hard to believe.

Further, if you’ve seen the movie, you know Bruce Springsteen makes a cameo. Well, here he’s a character and someone plays him. Quite frankly, the gimmick doesn’t work. There’s only one Bruce, and as hard as the actor tries, it’s tough to suspend your disbelief.

I also thought certain scenes were underwhelming and poorly adapted, or just silly (like most involving Ian, the Tim Robbins character in the movie).

Oh yeah, and it’s an unfair comment I suppose, but you can’t help but think of Jack Black when you see Jay Klaitz’s performance as Barry. Basically, the character has been “cutened up” for the stage and that’s unfortunate.

And yet, despite all my problems, I still might recommend the show — or at least the soundtrack, whenever it’s released.

I don’t exactly think Rob and Barry, with all their rock music integrity, would love it, but High Fidelity is different, it feels youthful, and hell, the music isreally fun.

The show is in Boston for another couple weeks before it packs up and heads for Broadway. I’m hoping things get a little tighter before it opens up officically there in December.

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