High Fidelity at Beenleigh Theatre Group

When Brooklyn record store owner Rob finds himself unexpectedly dumped, his life takes a music-filled turn toward the introspective. Based on the popular novel by Nick Hornby, High Fidelity follows Rob as he struggles to discover how his relationship went awry, and strives to change his life in order to win back his sweetheart Laura. With memorable characters and a rock-and-roll score, this homage to music geek culture explores love, heartbreak, and the power of the perfect soundtrack.

Rosie spoke with Director Michael Skelton about this musical adaptation and why this story is so timeless. Read the full interview below:

Michael Skelton

High Fidelity follows the story of Rob, a recently dumped Brooklyn record store owner, who reflects on his past relationships in order to win over the woman he loves. What about this musical drew you to the story?

 

I think the story is a universal one. We’ve all had those moments in life where the decisions we make are going to form our futures and that’s where Rob is during this show. Personally I can relate to aspects of Rob and that makes the story feel all the more real. Other people will see themselves in Barry or Dick or Laura or Liz. Hopefully not Ian, though. A lot of theatre feels like escapism so it’s rare for a musical to speak to a wide array of people on a personal level and have them relate to it, whether they like to admit it or not. Plus there’s some great jokes.

The story of High Fidelity has had many iterations, starting with a successful Nick Hornby novel, then moving to a critically-acclaimed film. Why do you think this story benefits from being staged as a musical? How does it change the way we engage with the story?

 

The novel and movie are equally about love and music. Rob loves Laura but also has an obsession with music. So it makes a lot of sense for the source material to be staged with music. This show really is a love letter to music in all forms and styles. You have songs in it that are your typical musical theatre style staples but there is also a Snoop Dogg parody in the second act. It’s not a jukebox musical but Tom Kitt has written a score that uses all genres of music as a basis and really reflects the eclectic tastes of the show’s characters. Guys who hang out in a record store all day arguing the value of one record over another. The music really has become a driver of the story. It’s a representation of the inner workings of the character’s minds.

This musical hits the stage in Beenleigh after opening on Broadway more than ten years ago. How do you think the story has aged, and how will it resonate with an audience in 2019?

 

It’s really a story that can’t date. Everyone goes through the same sort of experiences that Rob, Laura, Dick and Barry go through as part of the growing process so from a story perspective, this show can be performed this week or in forty years from now and still resonate the same way with audiences on a basic level.  

In 2006, the original Broadway production closed just ten days after its opening night. Was working on a show with this reputation part of the challenge? What do you feel is unique about the Beenleigh Theatre Group production of High Fidelity?

 

You always wonder what went wrong when a show has such a short shelf life on Broadway and wonder whether the reputation of the piece will have an adverse effect on the ability of the show to sell. I think the main problem with High Fidelity on Broadway is it got lost amongst the big budget shows of the day like Jersey Boys and Wicked. It’s not a bells and whistles type show. No one flies across stage, there are no hydraulic set pieces. It’s just a human story that has great music and some laughs. And maybe that’s not suitable for a 2000 seat theatre. I think stripping the show back and working out what really makes it appeal to audiences without having to worry about the “spectacle” has helped. We’ve really concentrated on the performances and I think that’s where the connection with the audiences will come from. Yeah we have pretty lights and great costumes but in the end the audience has to believe the story and characters.  Big shows gloss over their faults by throwing money into sets and effects and hope you don’t notice the crappy plot and score. High Fidelity gets the basics right and I think this style of theatre is something audiences rarely get an opportunity to see.

High Fidelity has been described as a ‘cult millennial classic about vinyl and unrequited love’. Do you agree with this statement? If so, what about this musical gives it this cult status?

 

I think the tag “millennial” is irrelevant here. Yes, there seems to be a resurgence in vinyl sales off the back of millennials ditching CD’s and streaming for records, but again it’s the core of the story that makes it appeal to everyone. In terms of cult status, I guess it’s the curiosity of the musical itself. It isn’t exactly mainstream, the book and movie have always spoken to a certain type of person. But our production is the first in Queensland and I’m sure all audiences coming to see us will know very little about the show and it’s music. Cult status gets thrown around for things that aren’t instantly popular or people aren’t aware of but once seen, they talk about it to others and form this band of devotees. Hopefully people come and see our show and become those devotees to its magic.

What do you hope to achieve with this production of High Fidelity?

 

To show there is a place for small modern shows within the theatre community. It’s easy to throw on a production of Grease or Cats or Avenue Q every year and get audiences. That’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But you are going to get audiences regardless of the shows quality and not give them any surprises. We have a great cast, the show is fun, dramatic and just full of really great music. Audiences are definitely going to take away something from the show and if what we achieve is introducing people to something new and they love it, then we achieved what we’ve set out to do.



 

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:

 

Favourite production you have ever seen?

Jersey Boys and Something Rotten on Broadway

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

New York. Greatest city on Earth.

Dream show to direct?

Something Rotten or Rock of Ages. I love comedy.

Plays or musicals?

Definitely musicals.

A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

Used to play cricket until my shoulders started to sound like cement mixers. Plus we always lost……

What’s next for you after this show?

Couple of irons in the fire next year but for the meantime I have a lot of Game of Thrones to catch up on.  I hear it’s good.

High Fidelity opens at Beenleigh Theatre Group on June 28, 2019. You can get your tickets here.

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