‘High fidelity’ musical at minneapolis’ electric fetus 10 ethanol gas problems

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Christian Unser had been thinking about staging “High Fidelity” for a while and realized he needed some records. The musical – based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, which inspired a feature film in 2000 — takes place in a record store, after all.

“I thought I’d reach out to the Electric Fetus to see if they’d loan us some props,” said Unser, artistic director of Minneapolis Musical Theatre. “Then I thought, ‘What if we tried to do it in the Electric Fetus? I know they have music performances there.’ They were all for it, and it went from there.”

Then there was the matter of seating. “We talked a lot about that,” Unser said. “If we sat the audience in chairs, they wouldn’t be able to see half of what’s happening. So we’re asking them to stand. The audience will be like customers in the store.”

The lack of seats allowed Unser to move the action around the space, with the crowd following. While he hopes they pay attention to the show, audience members are free to flip through the stacks and there will be a register open before and after the performance for anyone who finds a hidden treasure they simply must have.

The standing crowd coupled with the later start time caused Unser to drop the intermission and keep the show tight, ideally in the 75- to 90-minute range. He also reached out to the rights holder with a request to trim some material from the production. “We know we’re asking a lot of the audience, and we want to make it a positive experience,” he said.

Because it’s taking place inside an active retail space, the crew is keeping the equipment and set to a minimum. A stage that’s used for the store’s regular musical performances will stay in place throughout the run, while a series of risers and platforms for the 14 actors will be torn down each night. Wires are taped to the floor and tucked away, and each night they’ll bring in a control board and audio equipment, plug it in, and then remove it after the show. The staff is working with a tight half hour between the store’s close and curtain time.

The actors have been rehearsing off-site and had only a single tech rehearsal inside the store itself. “There are a lot of unknowns we don’t normally have to deal with,” Unser said, “but I think it’ll work.” Minneapolis Musical Theatre is staging “High Fidelity” at the Electric Fetus record store in Minneapolis. (Unser Imagery)

Before each show, the crowd will be informed about how the show works. Unser doesn’t want people to choose a spot and lock their legs in place, but to be ready to move around and interact with the performance in a way that’s not possible in a traditional theater. “When cast members aren’t in a scene, they’ll go back to being customers with the audience. I’m hoping it makes it organic and people realize we’re all in this room doing this together.”

The novel follows a London record store owner in his mid-30s dealing with a breakup and delving deep into musical snobbery/nerdery with his employees. The film adaptation starred John Cusack and moved the action to Chicago. The stage version takes place in Brooklyn and features original songs performed in the style of various stars, from Bruce Springsteen to Aretha Franklin.

Of the 14 cast members, 13 are new to MMT. “During callbacks, we told everyone this is going to be weird, unusual and different and you have to be on board with that,” Unser said. “We needed people willing to play with this, have fun and make it work.