Broadway out of tune with 'High Fidelity'

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The Independent Culture

High Fidelity, the story of a list-loving music anorak, was a bookshop bestseller that lost none of its charm when transposed from Britain to America on the big screen.

But the £5m musical version of Nick Hornby's popular novel has proved less successful and is to close just a month after it opened on Broadway.

Producers have announced they are pulling the show after a critical pasting saw it playing to houses that were less than half full. It grossed £145,000 last week, a low figure by the standards of New York.

There will have been 14 performances and 18 previews by the time its run at the Imperial Theatre ends on Sunday.

Robyn Goodman, the producer, said: "The writing was on the wall. The critics decided the material was not appropriate for a musical. Or maybe they just didn't like it."

The show was adapted from the book, which was published in 1995, by the Boston-born playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. It includes music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green, the daughter of Adolph Green, the lyricist whose long career included the 1952 classic Singin' in the Rain.

The production also drew on the 2000 film, which starred John Cusack and moved the action from London to Chicago. The musical was set in Brooklyn.

But the critics were dismissive when the show opened last Thursday. Clive Barnes, of the New York Post, said the show's music was unmemorable, with "material that hits a top five list of what should never have been used in a musical".

David Rooney, of the trade title Variety, said: "This bland show is crippled by its failure to convincingly tap the pulse of pop culture or to mine the romantic heartache of its source material."

High Fidelity is the story of Rob Fleming, a London record-shop owner who is still struggling to grow up at the age of 35 and whose most amusing and irritating trait is his lists of top fives - from music to relationship break-ups.

The characters include his girlfriend, Laura, her friend Liz, the singer Marie La Salle and his record store mates Barry and Dick. Although the subsequent film version - with a stellar cast including John Cusack, Tim Robbins and Catherine Zeta-Jones - was set in America, it was deemed to have kept the character of the original, possibly helped by its British director, Mike Newell, whose previous hits included Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Hornby relinquished the rights to the story when the book became a film and has had nothing to do with the musical, which had a try-out in Boston before opening in New York. He admitted that it was ironic that his characters, who mock the musical tastes of others, should turn up in a Broadway musical. But he did support the project before it opened.

He added: "I don't feel protective of the book at all because the book will always survive, and if it doesn't, it won't have anything to do with what sort of job people do with the musical."

Adaptations of Nick Hornby's work have enjoyed mixed success. Fever Pitch, the autobiographical story of a football obsessive, was first filmed with Colin Firth in 1997 with another, American, version by the Farrelly brothers released last year. Neither was a major hit with British audiences.

But About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant as a bachelor living off the royalties of his father's old Christmas hit single, was more popular.

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