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Heathcliff was the brainchild of singer Cliff Richard based loosely on the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, though focussing on the character of Heathcliff and adapting the story to fit in with the staging and production. The musical attempts to fill some of the gaps in Heathcliff's personal story by taking leads from implications made by Emily Brontë in the novel, fitting them into the sequence of events as written.
The idea for Heathcliff was born in 1994 and much of the year was taken up in the production of the venture. Rehearsals took place during the Summer of 1996 in Camden, London before moving to Earls Court 2 for production rehearsals with the stage sets and full band. A couple of public previews were held at Earls Court before the show moved to the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.
Heathcliff opened on 16 October 1996, amongst considerable interest from the world’s media about Cliff Richard playing the dark, barely civilised, character, with many sources speculating that Richard could not carry off such a role. Box office records were broken for first-week ticket sales. Following the run in Birmingham the show transferred to Edinburgh for four weeks, before returning to the NIA for a few additional dates before Christmas. After the New Year the show opened in the Palace Theatre, Manchester before transferring to London. The final performance was at Labatt's Apollo, Hammersmith, in May; Cliff had played to audiences of close on half a million people, and had broken box office records at almost every theatre.
Although the musical was not received well by some critics, with one referring to it as "living dull", it was popular with Richard's fans and with many Bronte buffs; an advertising campaign for the show used some of the critics' quotes, such as "This Wretched Show" and "Withering Rather Than Wuthering", to contrast the opposing views of the critics and fans.
The opening advance takings for the show were £8.5m, believed to be a record at the time. A cast recording of the show was released in October 1996 to coincide with the start of the tour and several singles were issued, including 'A Misunderstood Man", "Had To Be", "Be With Me Always" and "The Wedding" (40), a duet with Helen Hobson.
A film recording of the show was made at the Hammersmith Apollo, the video of which stayed at the top of the charts for 8 weeks.
Heathcliff, taken in when a homeless child as an act of charity by Mr Earnshaw, to live with his own family at the remote Yorkshire farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. Mr Earnshaw's son Hindley (Jimmy Johnston) formed an instant antipathy to the wild and rebellious Heathcliff, whereas his sister Cathy (Helen Hobson) found in Heathcliff a suitable soul mate whose fiery passions fed her romantic nature.
The two were inseparable and their habit of wandering unchecked on their beloved moors resulted in an accidental injury which invalided Cathy for a time, necessitating a stay at Thrushcross Grange, the home of the Lintons - the cultured Edgar, and his sister Isabella. This contact with a more refined world seduced Cathy, spurring her to rein in her wild passions somewhat; the dazzle of wealth broadened her horizons, her first taste of gentility causing her to question the careless abandon of her relationship with Heathcliff, and to despair of the possibility of a future together for them in a world that required more prudent choices be made. Her acceptance of Edgar Linton's (Darryl Knock) marriage proposal threw Heathcliff into a tormented rage; in order to avoid daily confrontation with his loss of Cathy, and to punish her with his absence, he travelled abroad in an effort to improve his station in life, to match that of her husband.
Years pass; Heathcliff returns unexpectedly, having amassed the extreme wealth he sought, as well as vast experience - although nothing to expunge his passion for Cathy. Hindley Earnshaw - master of Wuthering Heights following the death of his father - is by now a drunken bully, still seething with hatred for Heathcliff. They fight, Heathcliff winning Wuthering Heights as forfeit. He marries Edgar's sister, Isabella (Sara Haggerty) although he does not love her, and cruelly abuses her, in order to torment Cathy just as her marriage to Edgar continues to torment him. Ultimately, following a gruelling childbirth, Cathy dies having confessed her undiminished passion for him, and her error in having given herself in marriage to Edgar, a decision which ultimately brought misery to all concerned.
Heathcliff endures years of torment following this loss, until his own death reunites the lovers in the afterlife.
References to Wuthering Heights
The story is based on Wuthering Heights, closely following the plot, and elaborating on it; all of the dialogue in the show is from the novel although some parts were transposed to better fit the manner in which it was being performed.
- Heathcliff - Cliff Richard
- Cathy - Helen Hobson
- Earnshaw/Hindley - Jimmy Jonhston
- Edgar - Darryl Knock
- Isabella - Sara Haggerty
- Troubadour - Gordon Giltrap
- Elements - Rob Fardell, Chris Holland, Sonai Jones, Niki Kitt, Suzanne Parry
- Dancers - Gbenga Adeyemo, Andrew Carroll, Phyllida Crowley Smith, Samuel Hall, Jacqui Jameson, RIchard Joseph, Lizzie Leigh, Andrea Smart, Bryn Walters
- Vocalists - David Combes, John Parry, Mick Wilson
- Lyricist - Tim Rice
- Composer - John Farrar
- Director - Frank Dunlop (director)
- Production Design - Joe Vanek
- Lighting Designer - Andrew Bridge
- Sound Design - Mike Lowe, Colin Norfield, John James
- Production Music Director - Mike Moran
- Choreographer - Brad Jeffries
- Assistant Choreographer - Michelle Papouis
- Orchestrator - Sean Callery
- A Misunderstood Man
- Sleep of the Good
- Gypsy Bundle
- The Grange Waltz
- Each to His Own
- Had To Be
- Mrs. Edgar Linton
- The Journey
- When You Thought of Me
- Dream Tomorrow
- Gambling Song
- I Do Not Love You Isabella
- Choosing When It's Too Late
- Madness of Cathy
- Marked with Death
- Be With Me Always
- The Nightmare
- National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
16th Oct - 2nd Nov & 14th - 19th Dec 1996
5th Nov - 7th Dec 1996
7th Jan - 8th Feb 1997
- Hammersmith Apollo London
12th Feb - 17 May 1997
- "Cliff Richard: Peter Pan or lost boy?". BBC News. 1999-11-29. Retrieved 2008-11-15.
- Lister, David (1997-04-14). "Cliff's oxygen of bad publicity". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-11-15.[dead link]
- Cliff Richard Official Website Discography
- The Cliff Richard Fan Club
- "The Sir Cliff Richard Home Page: Heathcliff".