Originally supposed to close April 5, 1997 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, the musical Heathcliff has added four more weeks there, through May 3. Tickets for the new dates go on sale Nov. 30.
Based on Emily Bronte's classic novel "Wuthering Heights" and starring UK pop idol Cliff Richard, Heathcliff opened Oct. 16 at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. Though reviews were poor, tickets have been selling strongly, and the show, with music by John Farrar and lyrics by Tim Rice, is on track for its London opening in February, 1997 at the Hammersmith Odeon.
Most of the following information about the show was taken, with permission, from Jennifer Bogdanski's website on Heathcliff -- http://palamedes.hamilton.edu/personal/jbogdans/tim/heathcliff.html -- which Playbill On-Line then confirmed with the Michael Borkowski press office in London.
Sir Cliff Richard had wanted to do something with the character Heathcliff for years. He's also known Tim Rice going back to his days with with Norrie Paramor. In 1991, Tim received a call from Cliff Richard with a proposition -- how would he like to write the lyrics to an album about Heathcliff. Already onboard for the project was John Farrar, who had worked with former Shadows members Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, and had written and produced many of Olivia Newton John's hits. John offered to sing the part of Cathy on the album.
The plan was to turn what would start out as an album into a concert show, with Frank Dunlop to direct. Rice agreed, and what emerged was the 1995 concept album, "Songs From Heathcliff." The album (classified as Cliff Richard songs rather than as a show starring Cliff Richard) featured the single, "Misunderstood Man," which entered the UK charts in October at number 19. "Had To Be" was released Nov. 2, entering at number 22. A new version of "I Do Not Love You Isabella," called "The Wedding," with Helen Hobson (who will portray Cathy in the show) was released March 18, 1996 and entered the charts at number 40. "Heathcliff" had trouble making radio play lists because it was too much rock/pop for some stations, and too much theatre for others. A cast album of the concert is soon due; the single, "Be With Me Always" featuring Cliff Richard and Helen Hobson, was released Nov. 4.
The 22-week UK tour of the concert that began Oct. 16 in Birmingham closed Nov. 2 and will then move to Edinburgh, Manchester, and London. The touring schedule dates are listed at the end of this story.
Heathcliff set records the first day tickets for the tour were available (March 4, 1996) by raking in £2,305,00. Six extra weeks had to be added immediately to the tour because the tickets sold out so fast. A Heathcliff Hotline was set up for tickets for all locations at 0990-203020. Even with the extra dates, the demand for Heathcliff could not be met, so a return to Birmingham Academy in December was later added to the tour.
Two commemorative stamps featuring Cliff Richard were released when tickets went on sale. One carried a profile of the star, the other a picture from the "Songs From Heathcliff" album.
At first the papers declared that critics were to be barred from the show, though Cliff Richard later said he had never intended to keep reviewers from seeing the show; he just wants to give his fans top priority. If there were tickets left, the critics were more than welcome to have them.
It was announced at a Heathcliff press conference in London on Sunday, March 3, 1996 that Helen Hobson would play Cathy. Other performers chosen were Darryl Knock as Edgar and Jimmy Johnston as Hindley. Backing vocals would be supplied by Mick Wilson, John Perry and David Combes; the band would be composed of John Clark, Keith Hayman, Peter May, Bob Noble, Alan Park and Steve Stroud. Mike Moran is Heathcliff's musical director, and the show is choreographed by Brad Jeffries. Rehearsals began Sept. 2, 1996.
Technical designs for the show, which opened at Birmingham on schedule, include sets by Joe Vanek and lighting by the ubiquitous Andrew Bridge. Due to the production's technical complexity, it opened in Edinburgh Nov. 6 (instead of the 5th as planned). A special matinee performance at 2:30pm on Saturday, Nov. 9, 1996 has been added for all of the fans who purchased tickets for the cancelled performance on the 5th.
One problem the critics -- including the London Times' Richard Morrison -- had with Heathcliff was Cliff Richard's age -- 56. It was apparently easier to suspend disbelief in a concert staging than in a regular production. Despite this bad press for the show, Cliff Richard's fans are a dovoted bunch. The show is sold-out, and the dates have had to be extended twice to accommodate public demand for tickets (a lucky thing for the star, since he personally put up some of the money for the show.)
Heathcliff Tour Dates: Birmingham Academy at the NIA: Saturday, Dec. 14-Thursday, Dec. 19, 1996. Phone: 0-121-200-2222. Edinburgh Playhouse: Wednesday, Nov. 6-Saturday, Dec. 7, 1996. Phone: 0-131 557-2590. Manchester at the Palace Theater: Tuesday, Jan. 7-Saturday, Feb. 8, 1997. Phone: 0-161-242-2599. London at Labatt's Apollo in Hammersmith: Wednesday, Feb. 12-Saturday, May 3, 1997. Phone: 0171 416 6050.
Songs from the show include: "Misunderstood Man," "Sleep Of The Good Gypsy Bundle," "Had To Be," "When You Thought Of Me," "Dream Tomorrow," "I Do Not Love You, Isabella," "Choosing When It's Too Late," "Marked With Death," "Be With Me Always."