Review: Five Things to Like About Slow Burn’s ‘High Fidelity’

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“Lists” play a key role in “High Fidelity,” the short lived Broadway musical set in the 1990s about a 20-something young man who owns the last record store in the city — yes, we’re talking vinyl — in a new production from Slow Burn Theatre at West Boca High School.

Like the iconic Casey Kasem, the DJ who played us the Saturday afternoon Top-40 lists for decades and passed away last weekend, Rob (Robert Johnston) and his friends find it easier to categorize their music and their relationships. Rob organizes his own record collection not by artists or genre, but by the era in which he purchased each (elementary, junior high and high school, college, adulthood).

Fighting a traumatic breakup with girlfriend Laura (Nicole Piro), he again falls back on his lists, first offering the audience the formula for a successful mix tape compilation and later introducing his Top 5 heartbreaks, obviously omitting his true love Laura.

Unlike many angst-ridden youth musicals that seem to hold some deeper meaning that transcends generations (“Hair,” “Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”), “High Fidelity” is a nice, enjoyable show that will bring back lots of memories to audience members of a certain generation who remember spending afternoons compiling mix tapes of their own.

And, with the exception of the goofy pronouncements from romantic foil Ian (Noah Levine), a “practitioner” of Eastern healing arts and meditation, there are few deep truths for Rob or the audience to glean from David Lindsay-Abaire’s book, Amanda Green’s lyrics or Tom Kitt’s rock-infused score.

Even though the show material has plenty of shortcomings, co-artistic directors Patrick Fitzwater and Mathew Korinko, music director Manny Schvartzman and their young, vocally talented cast give the production their best efforts.

The result is this Top 5 list of reasons to like “High Fidelity” at Slow Burn Theatre:

1. Robert Johnston - Johnston (Rob) has to do most of the heavy lifting in the show. He’s front and center in virtually every scene and gives an appealing performance as the lovelorn Rob, a likeable guy who is negotiating his path to maturity right in front of our eyes. (Doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes, too!)

2. “I Slept with Somebody” – The standout song in Kitt’s largely uninspired score. The lyrics are clever and had the audience alternately gasping and laughing. (Rob hooks up with a girl who slept with Lyle Lovett while Laura sleeps with Ian, Kurt Cobain’s failed interventionist. It all turns into Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!)

3. Larry Buzzeo – Buzzeo provides much needed comedic relief in two supporting roles, first as a middle-aged customer referred to by the record store staff as TMPMITW (The Most Pathetic Man in the World) and later, Bruce Springsteen. Yes, The Boss.

4. Patrick Fitzwater’s Choreography – Talented local choreographers are few and far between and Fitzwater always brings fresh perspectives to stage movement that stand out from the crowd. Throughout the show, his ‘80s and ‘90s dance moves — with a few hip hop moves thrown in — complemented the music and were well executed.

5. Lance Black’s Lighting Design – Lighting is crucial for a complicated storyline that includes flashbacks and breakouts and Black’s design effectively makes these changes clear to the audience.

If there is a close honorable mention, it would be for Sean McClelland’s set design. Big, clunky boxes noisily rotate and roll to transform the stage alternately from Rob and Laura’s apartment to the record store and various exteriors. But, the cool thing, if you step back, together it visually suggests one of those hulking ‘80s boom boxes we used to carry around on our shoulders. Remember those?

Slow Burn Theatre presents “High Fidelity” at West Boca Performing Arts Theater, 12811 W. Glades Rd. in Boca Raton, through June 29. Performances Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets $25 – 40 at SlowBurnTheatre.org.


Greg Kabel

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