HIGH FIDELITY is High Energy

by Walter Bender

 It’s always a fun and exciting time in a learning institution when an alumnus comes back to work with the students. Megan Nicole O’Brien, a graduate of Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and current Associate Artistic Director of 11th Hour Theatre Company has returned to her alma mater to direct the current production, HIGH FIDELITY.

The cast of HIGH FIDELITY running at Arts Bank Theater in Philadelphia through October 22. (Photo credit: Paola Nogueras)

HIGH FIDELITY is based on a 1995 book by Nick Hornby, about a 30-something record store owner, Rob (played with great enthusiasm by Adam Hoyak) who is dealing with the recent breakup with Laura (Adrienne Brown). Rob handles everything in his life by creating “Top 5” lists, and he tries to understand his feelings for Laura and the breakup by examining the Top 5 breakups in his life.

The cast of HIGH FIDELITY is very talented and obviously having a great deal of fun with this production. Adam Hoyak (Rob) is very comfortable with the material, and shows a lot of vocal flexibility handling the various musical styles in the production. Adrienne Brown (Laura) is very believable as the conflicted ex, who still obviously cares for Rob yet is conflicted about their problems.

Ian Sparks and Brendan Dalton play Dick and Barry, the staff at the record store. Mr. Sparks is wonderful as the painfully-shy Dick, and Mr. Dalton plays Barry with great relish. Leigh Kato (Liz) is hilarious as the sympathetic (?) friend to both Rob and Laura. The rest of the cast (Bethany McCall, Matthew Dean Stewart, Ali Wetzel, Sam Nagel, Sean White, Joe Lynch, Dan Kiernan, Amanda Robles and Camille Trinka) play multiple roles, some featured, and all give very fun and energetic performances.

The music in HIGH FIDELITY is varied, each song imitating the style of a famous artist or group and the cast and pit band handles the material very well. There are ballads, rock, folk, R&B, punk and hip-hop style tunes, and they move smoothly from one style to the next.

A scene from HIGH FIDELITY, running at Arts Bank Theater in Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Paola Nogueras)

The set is miminal and mobile, the stage crew working almost-invisibly to move from one scene to the next. Area lighting highlights scenes or actors (especially when Rob breaks the 4th wall to speak to the audience) and is very effective.

My evening with HIGH FIDELITY was a lot of fun. The cast members were enjoying themselves performing for their peers, and the audience was very appreciative of the cast’s efforts. A hearty standing ovation concluded the evening, which was well deserved. This production is very enjoyable, and with a top ticket price of $20, a very inexpensive evening on the Avenue of the Arts.

You don’t have a lot of time left to see HIGH FIDELITY…it closes on October 22. If you’re looking for an evening to sit back and be entertained by a talented group of hopefuls, this is the evening for you.

Book by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Tom Kitt
Lyrics by Amanda Green
Directed by Megan Nicole O’Brien
October 14-16, 20-22, 2011
Ira Brind School of Theater Arts
Arts Bank Theater
601 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA

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