High Energy Rock Chops in Remount of High Fidelity: The Musical

High Fidelity
Cast photo by Laura Leigh Smith.

Oh, if only one could jump into the Wayback Machine into the simpler times of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel and Stephen Frears’ 2000 movie to escape 2017’s dystopia.

You can, just blocks away from the original, fictitious, Wicker Park vintage record shop, Championship Vinyl, which attracts “the minimum of window shoppers with zero growth potential.” Refuge Theatre remounts its 2016 hit with most of that cast intact, so High Fidelity: The Musical is tight, exuberant and joyful, despite the broken hearts that fuel the narrative.

Rob (engaging Maxwell J. DeTogne) has lost girlfriend Laura (strong Liz Chidester) so he turns for solace to his store’s geek squad, nerd Dick (compelling Lewis Rawlinson), who thought he had sex once but wasn’t sure, and smarty pants Barry (energetic Nick Druz-Banski, playing homage to, but not derivative of, Jack Black’s work in the film).

Proto-slacker Rob arranges his LPs autobiographically, not alphabetically but according to when he acquired them, which is the same approach David Lindsay-Abaire took when writing the script, focusing on Rob’s collection of women.

Rob’s old flames and other folks spill into the tiny yet well-crafted store-cum-apartment, papered with rock posters, designed by Michelle Manni (who also did costumes and props). The corps de headbang kick out the jams in front of a live five-piece band, blending harmonies curated by music director/keyboardist Jon Schneidman and executing boisterous choreography by AD/Director Christopher Pazdernik, to songs including “The Last Real Record Store on Earth,” “Desert Island Top 5 Break-Ups,” and all three parts of “I Slept with Someone” (lyrics by Amanda Green, music by Tom Kitt).

Rob clings to the “Nine Percent Chance” that Laura will return to him even after he sleeps with a woman (who slept with Lyle Lovett), amidst the steady stream of friends, shoppers and shoplifters, and Laura’s creepy new-age boyfriend with a Steven Seagal ponytail (who handled Kurt Cobain’s intervention), all rocking the casbah with a tin ceiling.

High Fidelity is the perfect musical for film fans, as well as those leery of traditional fare; and as a welcome antidote for the Trumpocalyse with the old-school boy-loses-girl. And the production is BYOB, which also lubricates the escapism into the rapidly disappearing freedoms from the end of the 20th century.

High Fidelity  by Refuge Theatre Project runs through March 25th at 1415 N. Ashland Ave. 

Karin McKie
Karin McKie

Karin McKie is a Chicago freelance writer, cultural factotum and activism concierge. She jams econo.