Route 66 'High Fidelity' dazzles, sometimes disappoints
By Sarah Gross
On its own, without comparing it to the hit movie or Nick Hornby’s novel, Route 66 Theatre Company’s re-staging of the Broadway musical “High Fidelity” is a smart, charming and funny production with some stand-out performances and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The show runs through Oct. 11 at Pipers Alley.
The story, which follows local record-store owner Rob and his broken heart, is buoyed by colorful performances by supporting characters including store clerks Barry and Dick.
The songs, which could be described as a hybrid of show tunes with rock and blues, range from catchy and clever to utterly forgettable. The music is played live by a skilled band (some actors double as band members), and the clever staging makes for smooth transitions between dialogue and music. Stef Tovar’s performance as Rob is inspired and believable, but his singing voice isn’t strong enough for even a non-traditional musical such as this.
As ex-girlfriend Laura, Tricia Small unfortunately lacks the warmth and vulnerability to make the audience relate to Rob’s longing for her. The real scene-stealers (and laugh-inducers) are Michael Mahler as Dick, Dana Tretta as the couple’s friend Liz and Michael Webber as the new-age hippie neighbor who becomes Laura’s rebound relationship.
Realistically, for better or for worse, most audience members will compare the musical production of “High Fidelity” to the book and/or movie. And while the show is fun and entertaining, it lacks the gravity of its predecessors. Much of the appeal of the book and movie lie in the endless references to popular music, which draw in music fans of all ages and eras. The musical production drops from its script all but a few of these references, favoring focus on its own original score.
There are instances in which the play shines in its own utilization of the stage medium, including some hilarious moments where they create “split scenes” onstage, and some brilliant physical comedy in which a scene is rewound and re-done several times over in different ways.
The play is fun and entertaining (if a little long). It’s best experienced with an open mind and with expectations of an experience quite different from its origins.
Pipers Alley is at 1608 N. Wells St., Chicago. Tickets are $29.50 to $39.50 at (312) 664-8844 or at www.route66theatre.org.