First night is the last as DJ Read's musical closes in record time

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As the DJ who banned Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax"; the musician who put the poetry of John Betjeman to music; and the Cliff Richard fan who turned the Peter Pan of pop songs into a musical, Mike Read has acquired a reputation for cheesy, bad judgement.

As the DJ who banned Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax"; the musician who put the poetry of John Betjeman to music; and the Cliff Richard fan who turned the Peter Pan of pop songs into a musical, Mike Read has acquired a reputation for cheesy, bad judgement.

And his poor taste has caught up with him rather quickly this week when the first night of Oscar Wilde, a musical he has written, directed and starred in, turned out to be the last.

Just five people booked for Wednesday's performance, it was revealed yesterday, after scathing reviews for Tuesday's opening night at the refurbished Shaw Theatre on the Euston Road in London.

And with a pragmatic reading of the runes, Read took the difficult decision to cancel Wednesday's show and pull the plug on the venture, making Oscar Wilde the shortest-running West End musical in recent memory.

"I am naturally devastated at the turn of events," he said. "But I have great confidence in this piece. The public takes to some things, the critics don't take to others. You can't just switch off and say, 'I'm not going to do that any more.'"

It is not the first musical to have hit troubled waters this month. Murderous Instincts lasted a week, and The Producers lost its leading man, Richard Dreyfuss, through injury.

But Read said others, such as the Queen homage We Will Rock You, have managed to survive savage reviews by the critics because they had big money behind them and could ride out the storm.

A small musical in a theatre that has been closed for a considerable time and does not at present have a telephone inquiries listing was a completely different prospect. The musical had done well when performed at the King's Head Theatre in London and the Old Fire Station in Oxford in the 1990s. "It was nowhere near as good as this but it had great crits from everyone," he said.

The critics were also to blame, he added. "It was the same when we did Cliff, the Musical last year. We toured it and got terrific crits and then we came to London and they have a go at it. One said, 'I'd forgotten how many bad records Cliff Richard did.'"

The critics were almost united about how bad Oscar Wilde was. "You begin to wonder whether the sound system is being affected by the hefty rumbling of Oscar Wilde turning in his grave," the Guardian's critic said.

The Daily Telegraph said it was "hard to feel anything other than incredulous contempt". Terri Paddock, of whatsonstage.com, which announced the closure yesterday, said it had never sounded like a good bet. "When I was reading about it before it opened, it just sounded bad," she said.

But the Independent on Sunday interviewer Robert Chalmers found it much more enjoyable than Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Mike Read himself appears battered but undeterred by the debacle. A record company wants to turn the music into a two-CD set and at least a couple of producers are keen on a tour around the country, where he believes it will be more warmly received.

"Every time Charles Dickens published something, The Times shredded him," he said, adding hastily. "I'm not likening myself to Dickens, but they said it was trashy stuff and, now, people refer to the period as Dickensian."

He is aware that his fame as a one-time Radio 1 DJ and as the inspiration for the Mike Smash character in Paul Whitehouse's Smashie and Nicey sketches may not help when presenting a musical on one of the greatest writers and wits Ireland has produced.

"Perception seems to dominate at the moment. It's not what you do, it's how you're perceived," he Read said. "But you can't let things get you down. You have to get back in the saddle. I'm one of those doing people. If I have an idea for a new book or something, I have to do it."

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