On the record

High Fidelity to hit Boston before Broadway
By SALLY CRAGIN  |  September 19, 2006

Will Chase
The days when Boston was the chief tryout town for Broadway-bound musicals are long past. But our collection of record stores and record collectors makes us the perfect fit for the first needle drop onHigh Fidelity , a new musical based on Nick Hornby’s 1995 comic novel about the life and loves of an obsessive record collector (which also became a popular 2000 film). It opens at the Colonial Theatre on Tuesday and runs for four weeks before moving to Broadway in November.

The project began five years ago, when composer/conductor/musician Tom Kitt told lyricist friend Amanda Green (daughter of Broadway legend Adolph) that he was interested in turning the Hornby book into a musical. “I thought it was a brilliant idea because we’re both huge fans,” says Green when I speak to her and Kitt by phone. The pair found out who had the rights, bought them, and then, Green adds, “started writing songs on spec and having workshops.”

Before long, the producers who had mounted the 2004 Tony-winning musical Avenue Q had signed on and gotten director Walter Bobbie (a Tony winner for Chicago ) on board. “The first time I heard Amanda and Tom’s songs, I was so excited because it had never occurred to me that this book could be a musical,” says producer Robyn Goodman. “We thought this would be a tremendous challenge because most of the book is an interior monologue.”

As luck would have it, up-and-coming playwright (and Southie native) David Lindsay-Abaire, whose Rabbit Hole s nagged a Tony nomination last year, was at a workshop with Goodman. “He was sitting behind me, and he said, ‘I have to work on this musical — I love the book and I know how to do it.’ ”

All the same, obsessive, lovelorn Rob, who treats true love Laura so badly, has to seem an unlikely hero for a Broadway musical. But Kitt and Green saw humor and humanity, and they also realized, Kitt says, that “as a male/female team we can relate things to what Rob and Laura do.” Even when those realizations seemed, well, too outré for the project. Green laughs, “We wrote a song, ‘I Slept with Someone Who Slept with Lyle Lovett,’ and I said, ‘NO, this is too gross.’ But Tom laughed and said that’s what guys think: ‘Hey, maybe I can meet him and he can send some sloppy seconds my way.’ ”

Finding a performer whose charm could mitigate Rob’s misdeeds was next. Enter Will Chase, whose Broadway credits include Aida , Lennon , Rent , The Full Monty , and Miss Saigon . Kentucky native Chase describes Rob as a 35-year-old adolescent who “lives his life through music. He can’t commit to a girl — or anything. He’s that guy.”

“Will’s probably one of the most attractive and likable actors in New York,” Goodman explains. “He plays the guy as the slacker and screw-up that he is and you just pray he’ll be redeemed by the end of the show. But he’s so funny and engaging when he sings about what a screw-up he is, you can’t help but like him.”

HIGH FIDELITY | Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St, Boston | September 26–October 22 | $40-$90; $112.50 premium seating | 617.931.ARTS or www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com

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