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Review / ‘High Fidelity’ hits low spots

Will Huang in the role of Dick, left, with Zach Raffan (as Rob) and, background, Max Gambale (as Barry) in “High Fidelity”.
Will Huang in the role of Dick, left, with Zach Raffan (as Rob) and, background, Max Gambale (as Barry) in “High Fidelity”.
IF coarse language and gross-out comedy rings your bell, then you’ll find much to amuse you in Phoenix Players’ latest offering.

First-time directors Sarah Hull and Nathan Patrech have assembled a strong cast, led by Zach Raffan, impressive as Rob, the self-absorbed proprietor of a run-down record store, with a penchant for making lists and indulging in an active fantasy life.

The show starts out promisingly enough with a well-staged opening number, in which the audience is introduced to Rob’s various employees and customers. Amanda Green’s clever lyrics and Tom Kitt’s inventive score catch the ear with songs that pay homage to various recording artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, George Harrison and The Who.

Jenny Tabur’s excellent rock band captures the mood of each song, thankfully played at a level which allows most of the lyrics to be heard. Anita Davenport and Steve Galinec’s rather gloomy setting works well enough, and Jennie Norberry has provided a variety of appropriate costumes.

However, after the first half-hour, it’s downhill all the way, despite the best efforts of a strong cast which includes Max Gambale, Will Huang, Josie Dunham, Miriam Miley-Read, Amy Dunham, David Cannell, Emily Ridge and Anthony Simeonovic, between them playing a variety of repellent characters who require rather more inventive and imaginative direction than on show here, to make them palatable.

Jordan Kelly’s repetitive video-clip movement added little to the proceedings, nor did a shocking scene in the second act involving the close-range shooting and abuse of one character by the principal actors, meant as comedy, but which drew shocked gasps from the audience.

Phoenix Players should be commended for attempting a reasonably contemporary musical; however, it is disappointing to see so much talent and enthusiasm squandered on such unrewarding material.


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9 Responses to Review / ‘High Fidelity’ hits low spots

Theatregoer says: 8 February 2015 at 4:46 pm

Congratulations Bill for making it so much harder for amateur theatre to find anyone new, willing to start directing shows in Canberra – Not only does harsh criticism hurt the directors and the performers who work tirelessly (almost entirely unpaid) to put on these shows but it puts people off going to see these shows! There are not many young people who are willing to step up to direct shows so without new people learning to direct, we will end up with the same 4 or 5 people directing all the shows in Canberra or companies will start bringing people from interstate to direct shows! This is not an ideal scenario for the community!
Please keep in mind that this is AMATEUR theatre, none of the performers are being paid and they do it for the love to performing. I think that less harsh criticism would be appreciated.

Observer says: 17 February 2015 at 10:59 am

To be fair, while the performers and production team are unpaid, the company is charging money for the audience to view the performance and, as such, the audience can rightfully have an expectation of a certain standard. Calling for ‘less harsh criticism’ risks Canberra amateur theatre becoming a cliquey hub of self-congratulation and back-slapping. Why not hand out ‘participation awards’ while you’re at it? Everyone gets a gold star.
New directors do need to be encouraged, just as talented performers need to be given opportunities in larger roles to prevent seeing the same faces in every show. I commend Phoenix Players for giving an opportunity to two new directors, and I’m sure they learned much through the process which they will hopefully use to become better. This was a difficult script to work with and some parts of the show fell short – pretending otherwise is a disservice to the production team, cast, and audience.

Gus says: 8 February 2015 at 6:05 pm

It’s.actually a pretty accurate review. Extremely talented cast with some fantastic voices, dreadfully written show. Not the cast’s fault.

Gus says: 9 February 2015 at 9:48 am

PS the scene in question was obviously not real, it was obviously imaginary and quite funny. If for no other reason, go to see this show for the standout performances of, amongst others, Josie Dunham, Will Huang, Tim Stiles and David Cannell, whose performance and characterisation of ‘Ian’ is worth the ticket price alone.

monnsqueak says: 8 February 2015 at 6:18 pm

I’m not a big fan of musicals in general but I loved this. I think you’ve completely missed the point: this is a fun, lively show with delightfully hyperbolic humour, and stays true to the general feel of the movie.

I think musicals like this actually have the potential to *gasp* attract a young, fun audience under 40 who would understand that the “shocking scene” is meant to symbolise all of the things we wish we could say to people, but don’t.

The quality of the singing, in particular Max Gambale, Will Huang, and Josie and Amy Dunham, is utterly exceptional for an amateur show. I had so much fun that I am hoping to get back with friends this week to see it again.

duncansabroad says: 11 February 2015 at 10:51 am

I’ve seen plenty of amateur theatre over the years and I found High Fidelity very entertaining. It was upbeat and fun with some laugh-out-loud moments and the “coarse language” was entirely appropriate within the context of the characters. Max totally rocked his role as Barry, Will was just perfect as Dick, Josie and Amy had awesome vocals and Zach was impressively daggy as Rob, pulling off a massive vocal role. And you really did want to punch out Ian, played by David. The supporting cast brought their characters to life with great credibility. The band were fantastic, as was Sean in his cameo as ‘The Boss’. If you loved the film, you’ll enjoy this production.

Bridget McGeechan says: 12 February 2015 at 9:58 am

As a visitor from Scotland I don,t really know much about the review guy must he must be from another planet.The show was very,very good.Set clever,music fantastic and all the characters energetic,lively and obviously enjoying themselves and that went for the audience as well.Hope Canberrans don,t take his reviews seriously.Go and see it,you will love it.

Emily says: 16 February 2015 at 9:04 pm

I think the title for this article needs the review. I think the title is trying a little too hard to grab attention and the tone of the piece is negative while it praises everyone.

Everyone in the show and contributing to the show did a great job and the material was not to this person’s liking.

Sounds like it should have been a positive review and should have had a positive title to go with it.

Did you get paid for writing this article? Maybe you should pass some on to the cast and crew.

Morgan says: 28 February 2015 at 7:56 pm

I also completely disagree with this review. I won’t say anything bad about the reviewer because free speech etc, but I will say that l throughly enjoyed this show.

The scene described as “abuse” is being completely taken out of context here. It is a very obviously comedic scene where we see possible variations on imagined confrontation in different styles of music, and then watch the character’s final choice of reaction completely contrast with these.
if anyone was clutching their pearls at this, then they werent the target audience and should perhaps have researched their theatre choice better. That scene was my favourite of the entire musical- one that I told friends & family about and that convinced them they wanted to see it.

As for the harsh criticism of Jordan Kelly’s choreography, I think it did a good job of complimenting but not overwhelming the performance.

I hope this review didn’t stop people watching the performance, because like many commenters here I feel it’s an inaccurate representation of the show.


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