Print this Page

NY Theater Reviews

Photo: Joan Marcus

High Fidelity

By Dave Lefkowitz

Top five reasons why High Fidelity closed on Broadway...

Top five reasons why High Fidelity closed on Broadway after only 18 previews and 14 regular performances:

#5:  Who's the audience?  Though perhaps not the coterie of Jewish and blue-haired ladies that it used to be, the standard Broadway audience still feel more comfortable with Gershwin, Elvis and Three Dog Night than the Go-Gos,  Elvis Costello and Third Eye Blind.  Which is to say the 1970s-80s generation nixed theatergoing in favor of other distractions, so attracting $100-a-ticket theatergoers who can deeply identify with finding a mint-condition, first-issue Stiffs EP on yellow vinyl is about as likely as finding, well...a mint-condition, first-issue Stiffs EP on yellow vinyl.

#4: Where's the inspiration?  Stephen Frears' 2000 film comedy remains a breath of fresh air (even though it's set in a musty record shop) because its subjects -- lovable, pre-GenX loser geeks -- don't get much play in typical commercial films; because it namechecks bands so hip, you had to be there to get the jokes; because John Cusack brings charm and angst to a lead role that could have turned smarmy or cute; and because we get the feeling that it all matters, from the music to the defensive one-liners to the bittersweet romance at the movie's core. By contrast, High Fidelity the musical stays earthbound, quoting the movie's best lines and following the film's template without leaping into an exciting musical form. Sure, there are catchy-bouncy musical numbers (Tom Kitt) with decent lyrics (Amanda Green), but at no point does the heart leap when the show takes on a life of its own (compared to, say, the way "The Bitch of Living" kick-starts Spring Awakening).   

#3: Star-crossed leaders.  A film that blossomed from the uniqueness of John Cusack merely rattles about on stage when essayed by the generic Will Chase. Granted, he was apparently so ill the night I caught the show, he had to be spelled at intermission by Jon Patrick Walker (who, in fact, made a much more interesting Rob). Jay Klaitz amused as raging-id Barry, but the movie had Jack Black. `Nuff said.

#2: Molehills into mountains. Even though I didn't see the movie until after the Broadway show, I already sensed that the musical was overblowing the one-note role of Laura's zen-meister boyfriend (Jeb Brown) while under-representing the good times Rob and Laura shared before splitting up, thus sabotaging our rooting interest in their getting back together. As for the film's ten-second Bruce Springsteen cameo, the less said about the show's five-minute Bruce Springsteen mega-number (albeit performed the night I attended by an utterly inapt understudy), the better.

#1: Just not good enough.  The above four reasons make it sound like High Fidelity was a theatrical endurance test, the kind of torture someone like Barry would inflict upon only the lowest of the low (i.e., people who wear Cosby sweaters and listen to Celine Dion). In fact, High Fidelity was, nearly throughout, an agreeable, tuneful, quite hip (for Broadway) evening's entertainment. Scaled down for, say, New York Theater Workshop or the Zipper, it might still be running.  At Lo-Fi.