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A CurtainUp Review
Wuthering Heights: A Romantic Musical

Still Singing Six Years Later
I saw another production (different actors, creative team, same adaptation, music & lyrics) six years ago-- at this same Off-Broadway address. Many happy hours with the book drew me to Paul Dick's musical adaptation and I found much to like about it. In case you want to check out this lates incarnation, here are the current production notes, followed by my review of the 1999 production.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS a Romantic Musical
Adaptation, Music and Lyrics by PAUL DICK Based on the novel by Emily Bronte Directed by Patrick Diamond
Music Direction: Charity Wicks
Cast: Dominic Inferrera as Heathcliff and Kimberly Burns as Cathy. Also in the cast are: Ray Arrucci, Dennis Holland, Sarah Hund, Richard Koons, Eric Monson, Niki Naeve, Danny Rothman, and Alexandra De Suze.
Set Design: Lee Savage
Costume Design:Sandra Goldmark
Lighting Design: Stephen Sakowski
From 6/16/06 to 7/01/06; opening 6/16/06.
Theatre Five (Old Mint Theatre) 311 W 43rd St. (212) 279-4200 Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 PM with matinees on Saturdays at 2PM and Sundays at 3PM Tickets are $15.
Moses, My Love), Sean O'Casey (O'Casey's Knock from Knock at the Door), Flaubert (A Musical: Madame Bovary), Paul Dick has now tackled Emily Bronte's tragic romance Wuthering Heights. I can't compare it to Mr. Dick's previous work, but the two hour romantic musical currently being given a three week run at the Mint Theater is an impressive achievement.

Contrary to the penchant for giving cutting edge, updated adaptations of classics, the composer-lyricist-adapter remains true to the period and events of the novel, wisely so since Bronte's timeless tale of starcrossed love works well with his semi-operatic score. The music while not the sort to have you tapping your feet, does tap into your emotions. Neither is it heavy on the dissonance common to modern operas or completely sung-through. Instead it effectively and melodiously moves the narrative through sixteen scenes of smoothly integrated dialogue and songs. It all adds up to a work that holds its own as a musical drama without trying to upstage or improve upon the story. That story, in the unlikely event that you don't remember it, begins when the master of a mansion in the Yorkshire Moors, Wuthering Heights, brings home an unkempt orphan named Heathcliff to be raised with his children, Cathy and Hindley. Hindley immediately resents him, Cathy becomes his best friend.

If you've been to the Mint Theater you'll be asking "but how do you stage a musical with a 12-member cast on this tiny stage? Where can you fit an orchestra?"

Impossible as it seems, director David Leidholdt has, with a scattering of props brought out as needed, used the raised platform and space around it to evoke the plot's three main settings -- Wuthering Heights, the Grange where the Linton family lives (Edgar, who eventually becomes Cathy's husband and Isabella who becomes Heathcliff's wife), and the moors where young Cathy and Heathcliff's friendship blossoms into passion. The grace and simplicity with which the young Cathy and Heathcliff metamorphose into their adult personae epitomizes this triumph over a bare bones design budget. As for the second question, the orchestra consists of a single upright piano and it too works thanks to Peter C. Mills' fine work on the keyboard.

Dick's songs aren't exactly the easiest to sing but most of the actors bring sufficient musical training and acting ability to the task in the ensembles as well as the solos and duets. Jennifer Featherstone doesn't quite capture the dark, temperemental side of Cathy but she has a fine voice. William Thomas Evans is a little too cherubic looking for the brooding Heathcliff, but his singing too couldn't be better and he does become more Heathcliff-like in the second act -- especially in the scene 12 "Come With Me" song when he persuades Isabella to elope with him immediately. Kelly Fleck, who play's Isabella, is a standout, especially when she reprises the leitmotif song "I Love Him" first sung by Cathy. Patti Davidson-Gorbea who plays the devoted maid Nellie is also excellent. Darin Adams, while physically well suited to the role of Edgar Linton, has the most trouble reaching the higher registers of the songs.

The first act has a few numbers which try too hard to sound like a popular musical. It is during such moments that one finds oneself trying to picture this as a musical in a larger space with just a few more of the acouterments of a less budget-constrained production. Still it's in that act we first hear the appropriately catchy credo song, "The Rules of Society." By the final reprise of "Hymn to the House" is sung most people in the audience are likely to agree that even without a speck of glitz this is one of the best musical bargains in town.

For a glossier, bigger musical based on a novel by Emily's sister Jane, see our review of Jane Eyre which opened recently in Los Angeles and is slated for Broadway at an as yet unannounced date and place.

Based on the novel by Emily Bronte
Adaptation, Music and Lyrics by Paul Dick
Directed and Choreographed by David Leidholdt
Musical Direction by Peter C. Mills
Cast (in alphabetical order)
Darin Adams/ Edgar
Ari Butler / Young Healthcliff
Lyssandra Cox/ Mrs. Linton
Patti Davidson/ Gorbea Nellie
Timothy Ellis/ Hindley
William Thomas Evans/ Heathcliff
Jennifer Featherston/ Cathy
Kelly Fleck / Isabella
Larry Rogowsky/ Lockwood/Robert
Christian Stuck/ Young Hindley
Laura Sweitzer/ Young Cathy
John Taylor/ Father / Mr. Linton
Danny Wiseman/ Joseph
Set Design: David Martin
Lighting Design: Frank DenDanto III
Costume Design: Robin I. Shane
Running time: 2 hours, including one 10 minute intermission
10/23/99-11/07/99; opening 10/23/99
Passajj Productions at the Mint Theatre, 311W. 43rd St. (8th/9th Avs) 279-4200
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 10/23 performance

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