“High Fidelity” a Flop on Broadway But a Hit in West Boca
By Skip Sheffield
“High Fidelity” was a flop on Broadway but it is a real treat as revived by Slow Burn Theatre through June 29 at West Boca Raton High School Performing Arts Center.
The show is based on British novelist Nick Hornby’s 1995 book, which became the basis for a sleeper movie hit in 2000 starring John Cusack and Jack Black. “High Fidelity” ran only 13 performances on Broadway before the plug was pulled. My guess is the New York audience didn’t get it. As a musician and vinyl record fan, I do. It helps to be a fan of rock ‘n’ roll music, which many older theater-goers are not.
Playing the John Cusack role of small, independent record shop owner Rob Gorgon is Robert Johnston. Johnston was impressive in a previous Boca Raton performance for Outre Theatre’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” and he is even more winning this time as feckless twenty-something guy who hasn’t quite figured out his life. One thing he does know is that he loves his “Last Real Record Store” and his fellow misfit friends who operate the place. One thing the enterprise is not is profitable. Some days go by without a single record sale.
Because of his indecision, lack of communication (except through mix tapes) and poor career path, Rob’s girlfriend Laura (powerhouse singer Nicole Piro) is rightfully frustrated. She is so frustrated she decides to break up with Rob and move out.
This prompts Rob to sing the self-pitying “Desert Island Top 5 Break-Ups,” backed up cheerfully by five former girlfriends (Courtney Poston, Abby Perkins, Christina Flores, Sandi M. Stock and Kaitlyn O’Neill).
Rob’s geeky friends commiserate with him. They are a quartet of losers: shy Dick (Bruno Vida of angelic tenor voice); pathetic Bruce, “The Most Pathetic Man in the World,” or TMPMITW for short (Larry Buzzeo); brash Barry (Sebastian Lombardo), who has a crappy band he thinks should play in the shop, and a guy with a towering Mohawk hairdo (Alex Zenoz) who wanders in and out of the action. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
As it turns out Rob does have an enemy: the smarmy New Age guru Ian (Noah Levine) who has his sights set on vulnerable Laura. Ian’s biggest claim to fame was staging an intervention with Kurt Cobain. If you don’t know the Nirvana principal songwriter and singer you will miss the joke.
Levine’s insufferable egotist is the funniest character in the show, followed closely by Sebastian Lombardo’s “Sonic Death Money” band. My favorite number comes in a dramatic role reversal when Larry Buzzeo’s “Most Pathetic Man” becomes The Boss himself: Bruce Springsteen in “Turn the World Off (And You On).” The real Bruce Springsteen was in the movie, but Buzzeo is the next best thing
Tom Kitt, composer of the dramatic “Next To Normal,” has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink collection of songs, from folk and ballads to hard-core punk, all backed up by what I think is the best band ever at Slow Burn, under the direction of the always-resourceful Manny Schvartzman. For the record Sandy Poltarack is a killer guitarist and Rupert Ziawinski can do no wrong on bass.
Sean McClelland’s highly-mobile set is especially ingenious. The microphone sound wasn’t up to snuff in our preview, but I trust it is dialed in by now.
If you love John Tesh you will probably not like this show. If you were born 1975 or later, you probably will. I’m older than that but I appreciated “High Fidelity” as the ultimate hipster musical that struggles to answer the question “Do you listen to pop music because you are miserable or are you miserable because you listen to pop music?
Shows are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25-$40. Call 866-811-4111 or go to www.slowburntheatre.org.