When I entered the space at 666 W. Hubbard Store, I was immediately impressed by the way the rectangular space had been bifurcated into a studio apartment and a record shop on opposite ends for “High Fidelity “(David Linsay abaire): a musical (Tom Kitt and Amanda Green) about the last record shop on earth. The set and properties (Michelle Manni) impressively evoked Rob’s (Max DeTogne’s) bedroom where he spars with his girlfriend Laura (Liz Chidester) and the record shop where his employees Barry (Nick Druzbanski) and Dick (Stephen Garrett) work. Director and Choreographer, Christopher Pazdernik, convincingly uses each side of the room for the drama while the center serves as the venue some of the musical numbers about Rob’s life, which take place in his highly campy and totally manifest unconscious to which he serves as an observer, as well the dramatic background for scenes set else where such as Ian (Tony Carter’s) apartment: a man who keeps repeating his rather dubious accolade of having done Kurt Kubain’s intervention.
DeTogne’s employs a typical but effective style for musical theatre in which his spoken dialogue and soliloquy’s are somewhat affected but accented by a highly charismatic and emotionally charged persona during his musical numbers. Chidester, by contrast, has a fierce determinism and sad, graceful elegance which never admits affectation. Druzbanksi and Garrett certainly are depressed and biting, but at times their combined shagginess almost seems like it is a bit too much. I have met highly sincere white, spiritual, new age/eastern practitioners, but Carter is great as the shallow kind who deliciously repeats his claim about Kurt Kubain with sheer and total obliviousness. The most powerful musical number by far was Caitlin Jackson’s solo as Liz, Rob and Laura’s mutual friend, and it left me longing to hear her sing more.
The plot is gratifying but fairly predictable, somewhat strangely as it is originally the product of the dynamic novelist Nick Hornby and nuanced film director Stephen Frears. It moves from a problem to tragedy, resulting in self-realization and an ultimate happy resolution for each character. In other words, it feels a lot more like Sound of Music or My Fair Lady than Frear’s The Queen or Hornby’s Long Way Down but there is a reason those musicals remain popular and satisfying, and probably still more widely consumed than the Frear’s and Hornby’s contemporary films and novels. This satisfies in same way as those classics with the same enduring charm.
“High Fidelity” plays through February 28th, 2016 at 666 W. Hubbard Street. It is being produced by Refuge Theatre Project. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 6:00 pm. All tickets are $20 and are available online at www.refugetheatre.com Ample Street Parking is available. The Nearest El is the Blue Line Grand Ave Station and the nearest bus is #8 Halsted.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “High Fidelity”