Showboat’s ‘High Fidelity’ at the top of the list
Written by: David Burke – Quad City Times
Clinton Area Showboat Theatre’s Midwest premiere of “High Fidelity,” based on the book of the same name that also inspired a 2000 John Cusack movie, is made for a target audience of anyone from Generation X through the millenials.
It’s begging for the mid-40-ish-and-younger crowd, with its pop culture references, driving music and staging that frequently resembles a rock concert more than a standard musical theater setup. It’s that crowd, especially those who never thought of heading up the ramp at the Clinton Showboat, who should be packing the place this weekend.
There are many similarities to the movie, one of Cusack’s best and the introduction of many to Jack Black, but the theatrical style and storytelling set it apart.
In this case, a Greek chorus is set up on the back ledge of designer Kenneth Verdugo’s record shop set, singing into concert-type microphones. Credible impersonations of Neil Young (by Bello Pizzimenti) and Bruce Springsteen (Eric Chambliss) at least start out behind screens at the top of the stage where we can also see glimpses of music director Drew Wutke and a hard-driving band.
Some ingenuity turns parts of the record shop into bedrooms for both hero Rob (Brian Cowing) and his erstwhile girlfriend Laura (Nicole Ferguson).
On the floor of the store set are two large racks of records that become dance partners thanks to director Patrick Stinson’s choreography.
Cowing, already making an impression this summer in “Altar Boyz,” plays the record shop owner as melancholy and constantly worth rooting for. Ferguson’s Laura, who has gone from barely struggling to a big corporate job, grasps every bit of her character’s complexities.
As Barry, the Jack Black role, Joseph Feldman is sarcastic, snarky and delivers many of the show’s memorable lines right on target. Brian Bowman is lower-key but adorable as the other employee, Dick. Chambliss proves hilarious as Ian, the new-age guru who’s now bedding Laura.
As with the Nick Hornby book and the movie, much of the dialogue and the songs are built around the “lists” of record shop savants. For those making a list of best summer shows, Clinton Showboat’s “High Fidelity” is at or near the top.