It was a first class team that put together 2006’s ill-fated rock musical High Fidelity; including composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, Bring It On), Amanda Greene (Bring It On, Hands On A Hardbody), Pulitzer Prize winning writer David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Good People, Shrek), and Tony winning director Walter Bobbie (Chicago, Venus In Fur). Sadly that was not enough to satisfy harsh critics, or the family oriented holiday tourist crowd. Opening on December 7, 2006 at the Imperial Theater, High Fidelity ran only 13 performances after 19 previews. It starred Broadway veterans Will Chase (Rent, SMASH, Nashville), and Jenn Colella (Chaplin, If/Then).
The musical was primarily based on the Nick Hornby novel rather than the film version it later inspired; the plot focuses on Rob Gordon, a Brooklyn record shop owner in his thirties obsessed with making top five lists for everything, always observing rather than participating in life. When his girlfriend Laura leaves him, he goes through a painful re-evaluation of his life and lost loves, and he slowly learns that he has to grow up and let go of his self-centered view of the world before he can find real happiness.
Composer Tom Kitt recognized the material’s potential for musical adaptation when he first read the book, long before the film was released and became a cult hit. He approached Green, daughter of iconic lyricist Adolph Green (On The Town, Bells Are Ringing, Wonderful Town, Peter Pan, The Will Rogers Follies) with the idea, whom he had attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop; and got her on board. Their score runs the gamut from pop music to rhythm and blues to romantic ballads, with each song in the style and musical vocabulary of a different pop or rock artist, including Bruce Springsteen, Beastie Boys, Indigo Girls, Talking Heads, Aretha Franklin, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Billy Joel, George Harrison, Percy Sledge, and others.However, all of the songs in the play were original composition, and none of the music by the classic artists spoken about by the characters is actually heard in the play — although (in a fantasy sequence) “Bruce Springsteen” shows up to advise the lead character of Rob on how to be like The Boss.
The show had a month long out-of-town tryout at Boston’s Colonial Theatre before heading to Broadway in New York City. Reviews were mixed, though Amanda Green’s lyrics drew particular praise. Associated Press’ Michael Kuchwara wrote that “High Fidelity’s charms are considerable and don’t be surprised if you fall under its spell”, while the review in Entertainment Weekly said “High Fidelity is the unique show that charms both your drinking buddy and your mother.” On the other side of the coin, the New York Times’ Ben Brantley labelled High Fidelity as one of Broadway’s “all-time most forgettable musicals”. Clive Barnes of the New York Post was mostly dismissive of the show, but did write that Green’s “razzle-dazzle lyrics have a style and grace that zing in the ear.”
Since then, the show has picked up a small cult following. High Fidelity was first produced regionally in 2008 by New Line Theatre in St. Louis, MO, followed by productions in Chicago, Washington DC, and other US cities.The Canadian premiere was produced by Hart House Theatre in January 2010.
Click below to look back at 2006’s High Fidelity:
“Top 5 Desert Island Breakups”
“I Slept with Someone (reprise)
Rachel Stern and Will Chase perform “She Goes”.