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Published September 18, 2014

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It would be easy to accuse me of having a bias  in regards to my thoughts about the musical of High Fidelity being performed by Pursued By Bear at Chapel off Chapel.

Really easy.

Possibly the easiest thing in the world.

In 1995 Nick Hornby wrote a book. It would go on to be one of my favorite books, and be adapted into my favorite movie. Like Rob, I have made a top five list of my favorite movies, and “High Fidelity” is number one (We’ll get into what the others are later). It starred John Cusack and Iben Hjejle and had a host of other actors including Jack Black that would go on to continue being amazing, and also my favorite “appearing as themself” cameo ever, by Bruce Springsteen. To say I am invested emotionally in this may be an understatement.

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Rob (here played by Russell Leonard) is a self-obsessed man-child who, unable to control his own life, seeks solace in making mix-tapes and top-five lists. He’s just broken up – well, been broken up with – with Laura (Simone Van Vugt), and, unable to deal with his emotions, seeks solace in his habit, telling us about his top five desert island break-ups. Rob owns a record store, and hangs out with Dick (Liam O’Bryne) and Barry (Scott Mackenzie), two guys who just kept showing up. And ‘The Last Real Record Store’ is his life’s work, a triumph of mediocrity, a place for the serious collector, and it rarely breaks even. (I should point out that ‘The Last Real Record Store’ is the name of the musical’s opening number, the store is in fact called Championship Vinyl.)

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I had something of an issue early on in that I kept comparing the musical to the movie. (Director David Ward addressed this movie/musical divide in our interview here.) I kept comparing particular scenes to how they were portrayed in the movie and, well, that’s wrong. Both are exceptional adaptations of an already great source-material, and as soon as that clicked for me, I started enjoying it a whole lot more. There are some bits that you’ll recognise from the movie, but if you approach them without that inclination, they’re even more hilarious / excellent.

Stand out musical numbers for me where the previously mentioned ‘The Last Real Record Store’, and Laura’s grungy rock-chick number ‘Number Five With A Bullet’. Musical director Frankie Ross has been given an excellent opportunity to play with all kinds of musical genres and she has done so exceptionally. It is about Rob & Laura, and a bit about Dick and Barry, but two of the supporting characters, Liz (Lisa Woodbrook) – she’s on both their sides – and Ian (Jason Bentley) – the new man, whose style is a bit Eastern, a bit European, but mostly just ‘Ian’ – steal the show. Anisha Sanaratne is also excellent as Marie DeSalle.

‘High Fidelity, the Musical’  is at Chapel off Chapel until Sept. 21. $37.50 Full, $32.50 Concession, $30 Groups 10+. Tickets available online.

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