Friday, December 08, 2006

The Lowdown On High Fidelity Reviews

The Lowdown On High Fidelity Reviews

Last evening, High Fidelity -- the latest movie-turned-musical arrived on Broadway. The reviews weren't half as bad as much of the buzz seemed to indicate.

Calling it "bright, breezy entertainment" in one of the better reviews, Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press defends the show: "There used to be room on Broadway for genial. Shows maybe not of blockbuster quality, but, taken on less demanding terms, enjoyable nonetheless. High Fidelity...belongs to that class of musical....High Fidelity won't trailblaze...But its charms are considerable and don't be surprised if you fall under its spell."

High Fidelity is "modestly entertaining," according to Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News, who says: "The music doesn't lift the show off the stage, but there are some witty and tuneful standouts....As Rob, Chase, from the short-lived Lennon, sings great and casts a high-wattage nice-guy glow -- but that's not the same as star quality. As Laura, Colella has a pretty voice, but ultimately she doesn't have enough to do."

Calling the musical a "brave, if foolhardy, attempt," Clive Barnes of New York Post takes most issue with the music in his two-star review: "[I]t has a few redeeming features....Lindsay-Abaire's book hews more closely to the novel than the movie, even in its so-so happy ending.
Amanda Green's lyrics are even better....Her razzle-dazzle lyrics have a style and grace that zing in the ear -- just listen to her name-dropping verbal variations on the themes of Lyle Lovett, Kurt Cobain and Kevin Bacon and those degrees of separation. But if High Fidelity"was to have had any real chance as a musical, it depended on the music that molds its rock-possessed hero....Here composer Tom Kitt emerges with a copycat, reverential, referential pastiche. It might have worked had it had the spectral vitality of Jonathan Larson's Rent. But Kitt's music offers the fatal combination of sounding familiar yet unmemorable."

Labeling it as one of Broadway's "all-time most forgettable musicals," The New York Times' Ben Brantley says: "High Fidelity is not mean-spirited, sticky sweet, stress-inducing, excessively loud, cutesy or pushy....Rob is played by Will Chase, who, it must be said, is not obnoxious. And that’s a problem....The performances aren’t bad, but there is little in any of them to arrest the attention....Mr. affable and smooth but doesn’t start to find anything resembling a character until the show is almost over."

Stating flatly that "Nick Hornby's funny and insightful 1995 novel was just never meant to be a Broadway musical," Variety's David Rooney writes: "Some cover versions are just bad ideas....There are some talented people involved here and a likable cast that makes the show by no means laborious to sit through. But it lacks charm, sincerity and heart."

Certainly the middling reviews eclipsed some of the more negative buzz that had been building on the musical, but that may not be enough to gin up much-needed ticket sales in the weeks ahead.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
You've Got To Have The Utmost Faith: High Fidelity Opens Tonight (December 7, 2006)
High Fidelity Catches Static From Boston Critics (October 6, 2006)
Two High Flying Broadway-Bound Shows Begin Tonight (September 29, 2006)
High Fidelity Tunes In To High Capacity Imperial (August 24, 2006)

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At 08 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Nick Hornby and High Fidelity is a good book and a good movie. But I don't understand the need to turn every book into a play or movie, every movie into a musical or tv show. I guess it's The Producers effect. It's just harder to think up something original.

At 08 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for your comments, Esther.

I'm sure your sentiment is shared by many, including those who remember when musicals became movies instead of the other way around (Dreamgirls is the rarity these days).

But hold onto your hat, there is still a mighty wind blowing films into stage shows. The list is not short, either, with Legally Blonde, Get Shorty, Elf and Young Frankenstein all getting the musical treatment (I'm actually excited by the prospect of Young Frankenstein).

Other movies-turned-musicals no doubt looking for a future stage berth in the United States are also plentiful. Down Under there's Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. The UK has a current hit with Dirty Dancing. And our friends to the north gave the world the musical version of The Lord Of The Rings.

Clearly, producers are trying to mine every ounce of gold out of established hits that they consider to be most bankable. Unfortunately, it's to varying limited success, and the returns appear to be diminishing just as fast as they are with the jukebox musical.

Sadly, inspired originality on Broadway is harder and harder to come by because of the inherent risk involved. But thank goodness for those producers willing to take a chance on new material.

At 12 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why it matters so much where it came from. I saw the movie, and liked it a lot. Now I've seen the show, and I thought it was great. It was fun, and I liked the music and the acting and the sets. I had a great time, and that's what matters.


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