When it comes to staging contemporary musicals, there’s no one in Santa Barbara like Samantha Eve. Born and educated in our city, she attended New York University, where she acted, sang, danced, and developed a major obsession with the present and future of musical theater. In less than a decade, she and her theater company, Out of the Box, have been responsible for bringing no fewer than 15 of the most exciting new musicals to the stage, beginning in 2010 with Reefer Madness and including Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Spring Awakening, Heathers, and, most recently, the amazing grrl-powered punk musical Lizzie. Throughout the ups and downs of doing everything necessary to keep Out of the Box going, Eve has maintained a true fan’s wild enthusiasm for her chosen genre, avidly devouring every new Original Soundtrack recording and traveling to New York, San Francisco, and Chicago regularly in search of the next great show.
Beginning on Wednesday, April 26, Out of the Box will present High Fidelity, a rock musical based on the Nick Hornby novel and the 2000 John Cusack film of the same name. High Fidelity depicts the life and loves of Rob Gordon, an independent record store owner in his thirties who wanders through the last days of vinyl in a quiet-storm slow jam of self-doubt. Trapped in an ever-escalating battle of rock snobbery with his own employees, including the irreverent Barry (played by Jack Black in the film), he begins to ponder what has made his love life such a success — he’s had plenty of girlfriends — and such a flop, as these relationships never last.
Turning to his most trusted devices for understanding the world, the Top Five list and the mixtape, Rob sets out on what Eve describes as “a real hero’s journey.” “It’s all from Rob’s point of view,” she told me, “and he’s determined to discover ways to become more of a whole person.” As befits a story about a record store owner who’s an over-the-top music nut, each of the songs in High Fidelity pays painstaking tribute to a specific artist and genre. Composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, American Idiot) and lyricist Amanda Green collaborated on these original tunes that echo everyone from the Beastie Boys to the Indigo Girls.
With David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Good People) onboard to write the book, there’s no shortage of talent in the original creative team. Having seen a recent pop-up production in a Chicago record store, Eve put it this way, “This is a good show, but it can be outstanding.” From the light in her eyes as she said this, one can tell that the fire of directorial motivation has been lit, and with a large cast (it’s the biggest Out of the Box show since Heathers) and a series of cameos by some familiar Santa Barbara figures, the show promises to be great fun for fans of indie music and musicals alike. In keeping with the theme, DJ Darla Bea will spin short sets before selected performances. In the interest of full disclosure, this writer will appear on Friday, April 28, as “Middle Aged Man.” And my agent told me I was reading for the lead!
4·1·1 High Fidelity runs Wednesday-Saturday, April 26- 29, 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 30, 2 p.m., at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). For tickets and information, visit centerstagetheater.org or call the box office at 963-0408.