A complete lack of charm makes this musical adaptation of High Fidelity tough-going at the Turbine Theatre
To offer a safe haven
Where you can be yourself
Unshackled and unshaven.”
I’d forgotten about Natalie Imbruglia, so I was happily grateful for the (albeit sneering) reminder about her in High Fidelity and popped her greatest hits on on the way home from Battersea’s Turbine Theatre. I was not tempted to listen again Tom Kitt’s score, which is a bit of a problem when you’ve just seen a new musical. It’s indicative of this choice of production at this new theatre, which at best could be described as curious, though problematic feels closer to the truth.
Though Nick Hornby’s novel and its inevitable cinematic adaptation garnered a level of popularity, they were very much products of their time, the 90s in microcosm. And David Lindsay-Abaire’s US adaptation, retooled here for the UK by Vikki Stone, does little to adjust that, ultimately coming up with something that already feels like a period piece. Oh look a geek, haha! Oh look a vegan, hahaha! Oh look a woman who’s way out of my league who was somehow my girlfriend and who I will stalk until she gets back together with me, hahahahahaha.
Maybe stories about whining straight white men do it for you, but there’s a certain level of charm that is missing here, despite Oliver Ormson’s best efforts as Rob. Tom Jackson Greaves’ production struggles to paper over these cracks, preferring instead to usher big dance routines into the unlikeliest of places, rather than properly mining the vein of comedy needed to properly engage. That said, Carl Au and Robert Tripolino do manage to cut through with some genuinely funny work.
And despite the anodyne score, which flirts with so many brilliant potential influences and goes home with precisely none of them, it’s the women who make the biggest musical impact. Bobbie Little as Rob’s pal Liz and Shanay Holmes’ Liz, the ex who should know better, both deliver vocals that their underwritten characters scarcely deserve. One for your top five list of shows that should have been left on the Broadway flop pile.